World experts discuss ‘man and nature’ parks

On the occasion of the UNESCO National Commission’s 50th anniversary and UNESCO’s 70th anniversary this year, Malta’s  National Commission is hosting a major conference on best practices in island and coastal biosphere reserves from the 24th to the 26th March.

Biodiversity experts from the five continents will be meeting at the Corinthia Palace Hotel, Attard, to explore sustaining and improving relations between man and nature in a world network.

Maltacurrently does not have an official biosphere reserve. Of such reserves there are over 610 in 117 countries. The chairman of the UNESCO National Commission, Professor Henry Frendo, said that the closest to such a site in theMalteseIslandsso far is Dwejra in Gozo, although other ‘nature’ sites exist such as the Majjistral and Buskett. Dwejra has the Fungus Rock, an inland sea, the azure window and various endemic fauna and flora in addition to particular geological formations and archaeological remains. It is still a largely unspoilt area, as may be seen from the attached photograph/s taken for this occasion by Mr Philip J. Cassar, the National Commission’s executive secretary.

As the world’s population grows and urbanisation creeps into and encroaches on natural spaces, biosphere parks are becoming all the more important ‘for people and nature to co-exist’, as an added input to sustainable development, Professor Frendo added.      

Many biosphere parks are larger than the entireMalteseIslands, butMaltabeing small, over-populated and over-built, we ‘desperately need ecological open spaces where man and nature can inter-act.’ Malta’s UNESCO National Commission also has ambitious plans for a sizeable nature site dedicated to indigenous flora and fauna, a project for which it has been short-listed.

The conference opens on Tuesday 24th March with an address at 9am by the Minster for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, The Hon. Leo Brincat.  He will be followed by Professor Frendo on behalf of the UNESCO National Commission. There will then be an introduction to the thematics of the conference by Dr Miguel Clusner-Godt from UNESCO’s Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences, in the light of the Madrid Action Plan for Biosphere Reserves, under whose auspices the conference is being convened. Visiting experts fromSpain (Dr Francisco Cantos), fromKorea (Professor Do-Soon Cho, of the Madrid Action Plan), from Menorca (Mr Ferdinando Villalonga) and Mr Young-Hoan Wang, Head of the Jeju Biosphere Reserve inKorea, will deliver brief introductory messages.

Thirty-five participants in several workshops will then analytically depict biosphere reserves in their respective countries and discuss future plans. These hail from Portugal, Canada, thePhilippines, France, Germany, Estonia, Chile, Tunisia, Senegal, Japan, Australia, Iceland, Spain, the Republic of Korea, China and elsewhere.

On Friday 26th March delegates will be taken on a conducted tour of Dwejra by Prof. Alan Deidun from the Physical Oceanograpgic Unit, followed by a visit toValletta and a farewell dinner (attended also by the Minister for Education and Employment, The Hon. Evarist Bartolo and the Minister of Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change, The Hon. Leo Brincat).

As part of UNESCO anniversary celebrations, an art exhibition ‘Film and Fame’ by Dr Ruth Bianco will also be inaugurated on the evening of the 24th March and remain open for public viewing at the Corinthia’s Orange Grove, Attard,  until the 27th March and  again from the 27th April to the 23rd May. Other activities by the UNESCO National Commission are planned, including a ceramics exhibition ‘Heritage Link’ by Godfrey Xuereb set for inauguration on 22nd May.

 

The Fungus Rock, Dwejra - Gozo

Photograph:  Philip Cassar

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