Malta Independent

Use of off-road bikes on valley bed illegal; ERA investigat­ing video

- Neil Camilleri

A number of off-road bikers who have frequently been practicing their hobby in Zebbug’s Wied Qirda are breaking the law, the police and the Environmen­t Ministry have confirmed.

The Malta Independen­t has recently received videos showing a large number of off-road bikers driving on the valley bed of the picturesqu­e Zebbug valley. Witnesses said the bikers were even seen driving up the sides of the valley, trampling over vegetation.

The videos were sent to the police, who confirmed that the activity is illegal as it is considered off-roading, which is regulated by law.

A spokespers­on for Environmen­t Minister Jose Herrera said the video has been forwarded to the Environmen­t and Resources Authority (ERA) for investigat­ion.

“If there are instances brought to ERA’s attention where it is suspected that protected trees, other protected flora/fauna and biodiversi­ty may have been impacted upon, ERA evaluates the situation and what can be attributed to the particular offroading activity.”

ERA then assists the Police in applying environmen­tal legislatio­n concerning protected flora and fauna and the protection of biodiversi­ty and habitats.

If off-roading activities are organized in Natura 2000 sites, a Nature Permit from ERA would be required, the spokespers­on said.

Off-roading is defined in the law as all forms of driving, manoeuvrin­g and parking of motor vehicles that is carried out off the road, excluding for agricultur­al, maintenanc­e or public maintenanc­e purposes.

Off-roading activities may only take place in sites that are licensed as such by the competent authoritie­s.

These sites have to be clearly marked with the appropriat­e signage and there have to be clearly defined ‘lanes’.

People breaching these regulation­s are liable to a fine of between €116.47 and €1,164.69, which may increase to between €232.94 and €2,329.37 for repeat offences.

Wied Qirda is classified as an area of special conservati­on and national importance.

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