Because the beach was hard and rocky, the producers and HBO opted to cover the beach with artificial sand. They coordinated with the Malta Environment and Planning Agency (MEPA) to ensure the environment was protected and clean-up guidelines were followed. Filming proceeded without a hitch and passers-by and tourists were allowed to watch and even take photographs. Unfortunately, the sub-contractors HBO hired to undertake the clean-up did a shoddy job and left the beach in an unpleasant state, which triggered both a major condemnation from local authorities and an apology from HBO over the incident.
Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo, photo from David Crowe's blog.
However, the ante was raised when a local expert declared that the damage to the location was far more severe than first realised, possibly resulting in the 'total elimination of the ecosystem' on the site. The issue has also become a political hot potato, with MEPA itself criticised for allowing filming to take place in such a fragile area to start with. MEPA has also been accused of a conflict of interests, as the same organisation is responsible for both protecting the environment and also making money out of allowing the use of some protected sites for filming or other activities. MEPA in turn has blamed the production company for not informing them of the full extent of filming and the modifications they were making to the site. However, it has been revealed that government inspectors were on-site during the rest of filming on Malta, suggesting that they would have either been at Dwerja during the filming, or should have been.
The clean-up on the site is still ongoing more than two weeks after filming was completed, and a full assessment of the damage caused to the location will not be available until after that operation is complete. Whilst obviously neither HBO nor the production team meant to cause this amount of damage, it has cast some bad light on the production. Should the damage be found to be extreme, it may cause severe political ramifications on Malta (where, it should be remembered, the production team would like to return to film the King's Landing material for later seasons). This story could run and run.