Fires which engulfed Mizieb in the Mellieha area, and which raged throughout Saturday and Sunday, destroyed a 50-tumoli swathe of land – six times the size of the Floriana Granaries. Agricultural expert Sammy Vella told Television Malta the destruction of so many trees in one go can also have an effect on the climate as result of the lack of rainfall over the Maltese Islands.
The authorities are carrying out an investigation to identify what could have caused the fires.
Hours after Civil Protection Department personnel, together with volunteers, fought the fires for long hours at Mizieb, the air is still heavy with the smell of burning, and there is a feeling of gloom at the destruction.
According to the Federation of Hunters, Trappers and Conservationists, who manage this reserve, the fires destroyed some 50 tumoli of land.
Sammy Vella explained that it is not just hunters and nature lovers who will be adversely hit, but also the country’s climate.
“The amount of fresh air created, and which helps towards more rainfall, is tremendous. We don’t have many forests to lose in Malta, and one of our problems is the scarcity of rainfall – we sometimes see rain coming down over the sea and not reaching land. We don’t have enough trees to freshen the air enough and cause the rain to come down on the land.”
Mr Vella is proposing the planting of a variety of trees for Mizieb – not just one species.
“We know that with pines, a spark will set them off, and when they heat up they release resin which is all fuel – fuel combusts and is not easily extinguished, and destroys the tree, so we have to emphasise on other trees not so susceptible to burning.”
Although nothing is excluded, the waste dumped at Mizieb could have been a factor leading to the fire – with FKNK reporting on the amount of waste in the area and appealing for Reserves to be supervised and to have adequate enforcement.
Meanwhile, the Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change has asked the Environment and Resources Authority to analyse the damage. The Ministry said in a statement that this should lead to identification of a plan for the area to be regenerated in the best possible way, and through interventions having the least ecological impact.