Over 10,000 back coalition to keep Miżieb and Aħrax free and open

Malta’s largest ever coalition for public countryside access asks Robert Abela for meeting

Hunters want to take areas such as l-Aħrax in Mellieħa under their control
Hunters want to take areas such as l-Aħrax in Mellieħa under their control

A petition started by the Outdoor Recreation and Camping Association Malta to defend public access to Aħrax and Miżieb has surpassed the figure of 10,000 signatures.

The petition, also hosted by NGO Coalition Spazji Miftuħa, is demanding that access to l-Aħrax and Miżieb remains open all throughout the year instead of being sealed off to a lobby for nine out of twelve months.

In just a few days since its launch, Spazji Miftuħa has also received the backing of more organisations, reaching a total of 30 groups endorsing the coalition and its demands.

Lands Authority formulating agreement which would see Miżieb and l-Aħrax turned over to hunters during season

The coalition has sent out a second open letter to Prime Minister Robert Abela reminding him of the request for a meeting about the issue, sent on Tuesday 28 April, to which no official reply has been received.

In their letter, Spazji Miftuħa say they are deeply concerned that Abela is considering granting the lands at Aħrax and Miżieb to hunting lobby FKNK to manage.

“This will deprive the general public of two very important public open spaces. It will spell the end of outdoor activities in these areas, in a country where outdoor space is already very limited due to our size and also the repeated encroachment on such areas by various lobbies.

“We are also disappointed at the fact that, in over 100 days since you took charge as PM, you have not found the time to meet a single environmental NGO, let alone a coalition of such organisations. This jars with the fact that you have met, more than once, various other lobbies including developers, business communities, and other bodies,” the coalition said.

Spazji Miftuħa said they are representing at least 10,000 people who have petitioned in favour of keeping public access open to such areas, and reiterated its request for a meeting so as to understand better how his Cabinet decision will impact the general public.

The Association for Consumer Rights (ACR) joined the call from Spazji Miftuħa, saying putting the woodlands in the hands of interest gruops would deprive the general public from having safe access to these open spaces for nine months of the year.

“The Association urges the authorities to uphold their role of guardian of public open spaces for all. It calls on the authorities to safeguard the right of all the public to safely enjoy public spaces all year round.

“Malta is a city-state with one of the highest population densities in the world and with densely built residential areas. Mizieb and l-Ahrax open spaces constitute some of the few public open spaces available to the general public, many of who live in apartments with no open space. Given this social and geographical context, the ACR deems that the granting of a significant portion of Malta’s scarce open spaces for private interest group use is not feasible or socially just in Malta.”