Over next 50 years Malta may lose soil equivalent to 214 football pitches
Unless the tendency of soil erosion does not change, over the coming 50 years Malta will lose 1.53 square kilometres of arable land, that is, the equivalent of 214 football pitches. This has resulted from a report on the state of the environment between 2008 and 2015 issued by the Authority for the Environment and Resources.
Agricultural expert Sammy Vella said soil erosion may be controlled by the planting of more trees and by the fortification of stone walls. About 61 square kilometres, 19% of all Maltese land, is at moderate to severe risk of soil erosion.
The report states that national expenditure to recover soil erosion reaches €8 million annually.
Vella said that population increases over the years has created the need for development and infrastructure and this has resulted in the loss of arable land. He said that soil displaced by construction is supposed to be yielded to the Department for Agriculture to be distributed among farmers. However, not all developers follow this practice.
He said that those that excavate locate somebody nearby, somebody who may need the soil for aesthetic reasons or for entertainment places regarded as leisure places like a hotel or a restaurant that may require a surrounding pleasant environment and therefore today the need for soil is classed more as an embellishment and is beyond prices that farmers are able to pay.
The Authority’s report also stated that damaged stone walls are not being repaired or rebuilt and therefore soil erosion during rainfall is substantial.
In addition, arable land depended on the construction of such stone walls, walls erected with great difficulties and therefore although farmers are compensated for what they grow, they should also be compensated to help maintain their infrastructure.
Vella said stone walls are not the only means of minimising soil erosion and maintaining conservation, but they reflect the character of Malta’s countryside.