Conserving natural heritage and biodiversity at the European level is maintained by the EU’s Habitats Directive (Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC), which focuses on the protection of habitats and species. From its establishment, The Cliffs Interpretation Centre has strived to promote the conservation of biodiversity, enhance local land user input, contribute to socio-economic development and disseminate information.
NATURA 2000 and The Habitats Directive
The Cliffs Interpretation Centre is found in the middle of the largest Special Area of Conservation (SAC), as per the Habitats Directive. “Rdumijiet ta’ Malta: Ir-Ramla ta’ Għajn Tuffieħa sax-Xaqqa)” stretches to 15km2 and consists of several landscapes. At Dingli Cliffs, we encounter karstic plateaux characterised by the typical garrigue vegetation, coastal cliffs and rural countryside. A substantial number of protected habitats and species are found in this SAC.
Through its continuous on site information and its innovative tours, The Cliffs Interpretation Centre is helping to inform the public of the flower species that are in bloom during the particular season and the need of conservation. The tours are also recreational, allowing a pleasing and relaxing time whilst still gaining knowledge on Dingli Cliffs’ surrounding environment.
Gaining environmental consciousness is crucial to locals, foreigners and the general public. The Cliffs Interpretation Centre strives to enable visitor access, combined with the outdoor activity of walking, whilst promoting ecological conservation. This has also been highlighted in Article 22 of the Habitats Directive which identifies the prerequisite to “promote education and general information on the need to protect species of wild fauna and flora and to conserve their habitats” (Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC, p. 13).
Amalgamating the interconnections between the needs of the environment, socio-economic potential and the input of local practices has been one of the priorities of The Cliffs Interpretation Centre continuously in its quotidian activities. The importance of integrating socio-economic concerns with environmental values is highlighted in Article 2 of the Habitats Directive, “Measures taken pursuant to this Directive shall take account of economic, social and cultural requirements and regional and local characteristics” (Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC, p. 2).
Offering wild and semi wild produce of the area to the visitors was an innovative means of communication that proved to be successful. People who visit the area just for the panoramic views are being made aware of our surrounding environment through such means of communication; hence always adding value to their visit at The Cliffs Interpretation Centre.
Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. Thinking outside the box and creating such a concept will definitely continue to help not only by educating people of the surrounding environment and its main stakeholders, but also by making the visitors aware what the environment is made of and why they shall respect it.
Living in such environment inherited through generations made us aware that many visitors are coming up here just for views, sunset, to collect snails and to leave heaps of rubbish every weekend. Gastronomy was the key to make them aware of what we have, and appreciate it in line with the Habitat’s Directive.