Education Minister visits Simar Nature Reserve

May 10, 2018 6:02 am

The Minister for Education and Employment Evarist Bartolo visited BirdLife Malta’s Simar Nature Reserve alongside an enthusiastic group of schoolchildren from Għargħur Primary’s Year 3 class (Maria Reġina College) to experience first-hand the work carried out by the NGO in connecting children with nature.

Doing some birdwatching at one of the reserve’s hides (All photos by Nathaniel Attard)

The Minister was welcomed at the reserve by BirdLife Malta President Darryl Grima, Education Manager Sarah Brady, Reserves Manager Mark Gauci and Simar Nature Reserve Warden Charles Coleiro before being guided along the nature trail through the protected site to the birdwatching hide where the group did some birdwatching with BirdLife Malta Field Teacher Desiree Falzon.

During the scholastic year, BirdLife Malta’s reserves host on a daily basis schoolchildren of different ages from state and private schools. The children are provided with information about Malta’s natural environment and the birds which visit the Maltese Islands and their habitats. During these school visits, the children are also given their first opportunity to have a go at some birdwatching from the reserves’ hides.

Minister Bartolo praised BirdLife Malta’s work, particularly in schools and with children in its reserves. He stated that ongoing feedback from students and their teachers confirms that outdoor learning is especially beneficial for children and their development, and being closer to nature provides them with an enhanced learning experience as well as empowering them to take action for nature to create a healthier environment.

Experiences first-hand the work done by BirdLife Malta through school visits at its reserves to connect children with nature

Walking along the nature trail at Simar

President Darryl Grima stressed the importance that Simar continues to be protected as a natural haven and designated bird sanctuary that falls within a Natura 2000 site, but also as a destination where BirdLife Malta engages with children in a natural environment through regular school visits. He explained to Minister Bartolo that all this could be in the balance in view of the recently approved development of an apartment block adjacent to the reserve which will cause further disturbance to this sensitive area.

The Planning Authority (PA) disregarded any effects on the natural habitat of Malta when a few weeks ago it approved this development which will see the construction of apartments reaching up to a height of six storeys abutting over the reserve despite the area having a height limitation policy permitting up to a maximum of only four floors. BirdLife Malta’s arguments were defeated on the basis that the architect plans to cram six storeys in the standard 22m four-storey height.

The Minister was presented with BirdLife Malta’s latest two publications

This will bring about an increase in the number of residents in the area which will also increase traffic, sound and light pollution. It will prove detrimental to the natural enviroment of the site and also to the enjoyment of the reserve by thousands of young students which visit Simar on a daily basis throughout the scholastic year. Another negative impact will be on the habitat – which thanks to the area’s conversion into a wetland reserve by BirdLife Malta in 1992 – today provides an overall rare habitat for the Maltese Islands thanks to which several birds now breed exclusively at Simar. It is also disappointing that ahead of the decision, the Environment & Resources Authority (ERA) had remained silent and not declared its position.

Group photo at the end of the visit

At the end of the visit Minister Bartolo was presented with BirdLife Malta’s latest two environmental education publications – the highly illustrated Għasafar Madwarna children’s book and the publication about Natura 2000 sites in Malta Post għan-Natura. The latter is being distributed for free to all geography school teachers in Malta and ways are being explored for it to be used as a textbook for geography, environmental studies, science and Maltese in school classes around Malta and Gozo. The publication is also a valuable resource for secondary school students and for teachers participating in BirdLife Malta’s education programme Dinja Waħda.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.