A window pain for sure
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Alfred E Baldacchino
The Azure Window at Dwejra succumbed to the forces of nature on March 8. It was swallowed by the deep blue abyss. There it joined the cave it once proudly held so high above. There was nothing we could do about it.
Not even control people from roaming over its fragile top.
The Azure Window at Dwejra, Gozo before Wednesday, 8 March 2017, 09.23.
The adjacent inland sea was another sea cave, as were the surroundings of Fungus Rock. Time neither waits nor asks for any permit from any authority. Nor does it inform anyone beforehand of its brusque actions. When it is time up, it is time up.
Those who remember the Azure Window can never contain the void it left behind. The aesthetic landscape so damningly torn can never be restored. Its romantic aura now engulfed by emptiness can only lead to tears. Its contribution to the fabric of the Maltese islands is an unbearable pain.
The last time the Azure Window played Hobson’s choice was in Game of Thrones. It must have been painful to look at the scandalous scene where geological remains and ecological micro-niches were commercially exploited without respect.
The exploitation of fossils and micro-habitats at Dwejra during the filming of Game of Thrones.
The endemic Maltese Everlasting threatened by the invasive Hotentot Fig at Dwejra.
Could it be that the Azure Window could not withstand the ongoing rape of the historical, geological, ecological and social environs? Could it be that it could not bear anymore the onslaught on precious indigenous species, some fossilised? Could it be that it could not stand the sight of invasive species encroaching on restricted endemic species? Could it be that it could no longer sustain the past rock-cutting explosives in the vicinity and the relatively recent illegal explosives to widen the passageway to the inland sea?
Could it be that it could not stand and stare at the rife illegal exploitation of the rich, unique marine life and the blatant theft of underwater archaeological remains? Could it have been jealous of the illegal buildings in its shadow, which mushroomed with political blessings, having a stronger hold on their bedrock than the hidden, submarine, disjointed bedding plate it stood on?
Could it be that being a proud part of such a rich but abused national heritage was enough to shatter the window pane, to the extent that it did not want to look and be part of such a rape anymore? Could it be that smiling faces, not shedding any tears for the onslaught on such a heritage, led to profound heartbreaks?
Will such a loss be capitalised to further exploit the environment under the pretext of making up for the Azure Window’s disappearance?
This lone, overpowering geological giant has in no uncertain way disassociated itself completely from such exploitation.
The Azure Window is now far from this madding crowd, safely and silently contributing to an underwater habitat for the indigenous marine species. The fauna which once caressed its fragile underwater hold are now embraced by the new myriad mazes it offers.
Dwejra is poorer without the Azure Window, no doubt about it. But it is still very rich in the indigenous biodiversity of the area.
The numerous fossils at Dwejra daily trodden upon by the numerous boots of tourists and locals.
Not only endangered indigenous biodiversity, but also endemic species, which together with the Azure Window have graced and enriched the area without much appreciation.
Consider the extent to which Dwejra is regarded as a special area of conservation of European Union importance. It is a Natura 2000 site, a site which hopefully one day will be professionally managed and protected for future generations, as is morally and legally obliged.
Would it be too optimistic to expect that the Azure Window’s pain, brought about by its disappearance, can instill the real appreciation of our rich, not-yet-understood, natural heritage we have been entrusted to safeguard? Would it be too much to implement professionally sound environmental principles to make up for this national loss?
Can the Azure Window open a social vision to lead many to see and understand that no amount of richness or gigantic strength can stop the natural powers from the inevitable brusque actions, which one day will see them dethroned and naked serving willy-nilly as a habitat for less honourable beings?
Or will such a loss be capitalised to further exploit the environment under the pretext of making up for the Azure Window’s disappearance? Wouldn’t be surprised at all. There are competent individuals who can tear the place apart!
Many have shed a tear for the loss of such a natural national icon, pointing the finger at nature for taking the Azure Window away and depriving locals, future generations and tourists of its majesty. Can all the tears spilled over such a loss wash away the pecuniary blinkers which are blinding many with greed, leading to uncontrolled, irreversible ecological, economic and social destruction?
One hopes, as the Singaporean political activist Alex Tan believes, that “Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see life with a clearer view again”, even if this is at a great cost. The view from the Azure Window is there for all those who have eyes to see.
Breaking news: it has been officially announced that it has been decided not to ‘rebuild’ the Azure Window. These fairy-tale decisions from this EU member state dispel any doubt of the miserable, deep depths the endemic political intelligence is in. I have no tears; there is only pain.
Alfred E Baldacchino is a former assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.