Landscape is an integral element of the common heritage of human kind. Its role in the development of Malta’s cultural identity has been critical. This factor has been recognised in the Cultural Heritage Act 2002, which includes cultural landscape in the definition of cultural heritage.
In addition, Malta also recognizes the importance of contributing to the international efforts to protect landscapes of cultural significance. In particular Malta is a state party to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention (1972) and has signed the European Landscape Convention (2002).
Because of their small size, the Maltese islands are in a greater need of protecting their landscape. The archipelago’s ancient and early modern landscape is constantly under pressure from economic development and urban expansion.
Issues of sustainable development are of major concern in this small island state, which possesses a land surface area of a mere 316 km2. The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage encourages a balanced and harmonious relationship between social needs, economic activity and the environment in the Maltese islands. This fragile equation is necessary if a sustainable way of life is to be maintained for the benefit of all who live or visit Malta.
The landscape has an important role in shaping the cultural, ecological, environmental and social fields of the Maltese islands. Rather than being manipulated, landscape should be seen as a resource that attracts a culture of green economic activity. The protection, management and planning of landscape can contribute to job creation and the opening of a niche sector which has as yet been under-developed.
Landscape contributes to the formation of local cultures. In a world that is globalised by media, communication and cheaper travel, the identity of local cultures is a critical component of national identity. The meaningful creation of social relations and symbolism across the land endows landscape with a cultural significance that is everywhere unique.
Landscape is therefore an important part of the quality of life for people everywhere: in urban areas and in the countryside, in degraded areas, that require priority attention, as well as in areas of high quality; in areas recognised as being of outstanding beauty as well as everyday areas.
But developments in agriculture, unlawful dumping and construction, industrial and mineral production, a lack of respect to regional and rural planning, town planning, a high density of vehicles, infrastructure, tourism and recreation are in many ways accelerating the transformation of the Maltese landscape.
Landscape is key to the personal development and well being of the individual; its protection, management and planning entail rights, obligations and responsibilities for everyone.