Salt Pan success for BirdLife Malta!
Nathaniel Attard celebrates a historic agreement with the Maltese government which sees BirdLife Malta entrusted with its fourth national land management project – the Salini Salt Pan nature reserve, a site of huge cultural significance for the country.
In the mouth of the Burmarrad valley, just at the limits of St Paul’s Bay in the north of Malta, lies a veritable treasure trove of cultural and natural history – a truly special corner of the Mediterranean that once proved as attractive to the great Knights of St John as it does today for the great flocks of flamingos that find safe haven here during migration season. Welcome to the Salini nature reserve! – 154,000m2 of impressive saline marshland and old salt pans surrounded by garrigue.
The Salini Salt Pans were originally constructed in the 16th century, built on a reclaimed island of clay by the Knights of St John. The current complex is home to three timber huts, reconstructions built in the same style as those built by the British in the 18th century for salt production. It also includes the Ximenes Redoubt, a coastal fortification originally developed in 1715-16 during the reign of Grand Master Perellos as part of the Knights’ impressive defensive network. During the course of the 18th century, the Redoubt was partially converted into a salt magazine by Grand Master Ximenes.
In modern times, thanks to the endemic flora and fauna also found in the area, the Salini site was named a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and has been integrated into the Natura 2000 network. Recently, the site was rehabilitated through a €7 million project, partially financed with EU funds for Rural Development (2007-2013).
Now, BirdLife Malta will write the next chapter of this site’s 600 year history…
And now it falls upon BirdLife Malta to write the next chapter of this site’s 600 year history. In an agreement signed on 15 October, the government of Malta bestowed responsbility for its management to our organisation, the largest environmental NGO in the country. This will be the fourth – and the largest – land management project entrusted to us, after the Għadira Nature Reserve in Mellieħa, the Simar Nature Reserve in Xemxija and Foresta 2000 reserve in the north of the island.
At the handover ceremony – attended by Josè Herrera, Minister for Sustainable Development, the Enironment & Climate Change, Joe Mizzi, Minister for Transport & Infrastructure and Darryl Grima, President of BL Malta – there was wide recognition of this agreement as an important milestone. As Mark Sultana (CEO of BL Malta) observed, this development is an expression of trust – trust in BL Malta’s ability to transform these areas in terms of habitat restoration and biodiversity.
The celebrations in October were only the first page of a new chapter for Salini. BL Malta, recognising the huge responsibility now on its shoulders, is eager to start writing it. Already, we are looking to increase ways the public can enjoy spotting the many bird species that are already attracted to this rich habitat. They will have their first opportunity to visit the reserve on the Open Day (organised jointly with the government) on Sunday 29th January 2017. Moreover, we’re also looking at measures to maximise biodiversity and help Salini realise its full potential as a breeding hub. So watch this space; we certanly will.
Open Day at the Salini Nature Reserve is on Sunday 29th January 2017.
For more information, visit the BirdLife Malta website.
Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.