Dwejra damage report presented to MEPA for consideration
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The Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) last November, commissioned Dr Louis.F.Cassar, together with a team of other specialists, to assess the impact that filming activities carried out in October 2010 had on resources pertaining to the terrestrial and marine ecology, the geology, geomorphology, palaeontology, landscape and the integrity of the site. The ecological integrity of this protected site was assessed based on the European Commission’s methodology guidance for assessment of plans and projects in Natura 2000 sites.
The report concluded and recommended that:
• The disturbance represented by the deposition of the extraneous sediment has not compromised the integrity of the terrestrial biological communities within the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) but impacts were localized.
• Given that the fossil features in the Dwejra area have continuously been impacted upon by the trampling of visitors on a daily basis, driving over of dive-support vehicles in the past and instances of fossil theft from the entire area, it was concluded that while there is existent and even recent damage to the fossil features, even beyond the site where the sand was deposited, the assessment cannot link, with absolute certainty, all of this damage to the specific activities carried out in connection with the filming of Game of Thrones.
• Although the clean-up operation removed the vast bulk of the deposited sand, the nature of the karstic rock surface made it difficult for all sediment to be removed. It is recommended that no further clean-up activities should be carried out. These remaining small sediment fractions are likely to be washed out by rainfall events, strong winds and the action of waves on the shoreline. The impact of the accumulated sediment is considered low to geology and geomorphology, as such impacts are temporary and reversible with little lasting damage.
• Localised direct damage to karstic features was noted with several rock pinnacles and ridges broken off, likely caused by the use of heavy mechanical machinery. The impacts relating to this damage is considered to be permanent and irreversible.
• Apart from the deposited sediment, the Dwejra area is impacted by sediment resulting from the unpaved car park on the access road to Dwejra, silt and soil eroded from agricultural land as well as material from nearby quarry spoil heaps.
• There was no evidence that the deposited sand eliminated the terrestrial biota (fauna and flora) of the site. The plants which were partially buried by the sediment arising from overspill were still photosynthetic at the time of the survey. No macroscopic fauna in the area were found to have been impacted.
• Salt production in one of the rockpools may be negatively effected for a period of time.
• There was no adverse impact on the marine environment within the adjacent marine area and therefore, the integrity of the marine ecosystem, in particular the habitats present within the Dwejra/Qawra marine SAC, have not been compromised.
The MEPA Board, after being presented with the report earlier today by Dr. Louis.F.Cassar, directed the Environment and Planning Directorates, together with the legal counsel, to draw up its recommendation on what action, if any, should be taken against the film producer for not adhering to the permit conditions and the damage caused at Dwejra.
The full report and executive summary can be viewed here below: