The right to roam

There is a growing issue in Malta about rights to walk in the countryside. It is of course a very sensitive issue, as encouraging masses of people to go to certain places would lead to their immediate destruction.

However, one step in the right direction could be to lobby for rights of access to pass through any public land that has been leased for whatever purpose, especially if such land leads somewhere which would be public regardless. This Right to Roam would not mean that one can pass from the middle of a field in Bidnija, but if the land is in an area that leads to places of interest, such as well-known cliffs, people should have a right to use the footpaths. Miżieb and L-Ahrax are obvious examples of where such a Right to Roam would apply. Access to these places should be guaranteed. No hunting should be allowed in parks – not ever.

A Right to Roam law would be a boon for the public and it would not be unprecedented. It is codified in the law in Scotland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Czech Republic and Switzerland. In Malta, we can adopt it within certain parameters, starting off from publicly owned land. The second step would then be limited, neat signage put in place by the Lands Department. They should also check that land leased for specific purposes is then used for those purposes. If, for the sake of example, land is leased for grazing, but used for hunting, should be revised. Government land should not be leased to individuals for such types of recreation, but instead for useful pursuits such as small-scale agriculture.

This may sound like a revolutionary idea, but clearly, it is nothing of the sort, when one looks how it is practiced in different ways elsewhere. As Malta’s population keeps increasing, the ability to enjoy our environment is only going to become more challenging. If PLPN have shortsightedly answered the hunger for property with ever increased speculation, then why not cater to people’s physical and psychological needs to enjoy the outdoors as well? Will those who love nature finally get their day in the sun?

Ralph Cassar
ADPD Secretary General