Tension mounts as protesters descend on Comino’s Blue Lagoon
Updated at 12:20 p.m.
A protest at Comino’s Blue Lagoon was in danger of ending in a physical confrontation on Saturday morning, as activists, deckchair operators and beachgoers came face to face.
More than 100 people responded to a call from the Moviment Graffitti to descend on Comino Bay to protest the rampant commercialization of the Blue Lagoon. It is the second such protest of the summer, with activists clearing the bay of deckchairs and umbrellas in June.
Protesters say commercial interests have overtaken Comino and are insisting that sunbeds and umbrellas be limited to 30% of the Blue Lagoon, with operators installing them only at the request of a paying customer.
Their other demands include:
- Large boat ban in Comino
- A limit of two booths without music
- Strict waste rules and daily waste collection
Operators had already placed a number of deckchairs and parasols on the quayside by the time the protest began on Saturday morning.
Things escalated as the event got underway and more umbrellas were laid out and activists moved in to remove them.
Malta Time saw a woman physically trying to stop a protester from removing an umbrella, which resulted in a standoff between the two.
Speeches were repeatedly interrupted as activists and beachgoers said. The police then intervened, taking the side of beach attendants and deckchair operators.
As tensions mounted, Moviment Graffitti coordinator Andre Callus got into a heated argument with the officers. As they argued, the activists around them chanted “il-baħar, ix-xatt, Kemmuna ta kulħadd” (“the sea, the beach, Comino belongs to everyone”).
A woman who was seen arguing with protesters over an umbrella she rented has told Malta Time she was disappointed with the way things turned out.
“It’s heartbreaking. What they did to us is the opposite of what they preach. I also have a right to be here on the bay with my children and my family,” she said .
But activists said the people with umbrellas on Saturday morning were sent there by the operators, to spoil the protest demonstration.
Andre Callus said the protest was organised, with a permit, so the police had a duty to ensure the protest area was clear for the event.
“Despite this assurance, when we arrived we found a few. And they kept adding to it. Look at the power of these bullies,” he told the crowd as he stood behind a banner reading “Comino belongs to everyone.”
Callus alleged that bathers present at the Blue Lagoon had been planted there.
“We received information about this yesterday, and it turned out to be true,” he said, adding that activists would hold further protests in Comino.
Natural, spoiled beauty
Comino’s Blue Lagoon is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful bays in Malta.
But the gradual encroachment of deckchairs and umbrellas, coupled with the ever-increasing number of people visiting Comino, have made the Blue Lagoon a less attractive place to visit.
In the past, authorities have played down concerns about the bay – last year Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo repeatedly insisted that “Comino is not just the blue lagoon” – but the Things came to a head last June, when activists led by Moviment Graffitti physically cleared the area of deckchairs and umbrellas.
Environment Minister Miriam Dalli has since said a study being finalized will establish a ‘carrying capacity’ for the island, implying the government is seriously considering limiting the number of visitors allowed on the island.
Saturday’s protest event was endorsed by several other NGOs: Għawdix, ACT Malta, BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Extinction Rebellion Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Grow 10 Trees’ Project ( G10T), MaYA Foundation, Nature Trust Malta, Rota, The Archaeological Society Malta, The Ramblers’ Association of Malta and Żminijietna – Voice of the Left.
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