MASSACRE OF MDINA DITCH TREES – IS THE EU REALLY INVOLVED?


29th April, 2012

MASSACRE OF MDINA TREES –

IS THE EU REALLY INVOVLED?

Alfred E. Baldacchino 

A very interesting debate has developed on the site Save the Trees which can be accessed on: http://www.facebook.com/groups/227850170644983/267876579975675/?notif_t=group_activity

An outstanding feature on the above blog is that 99% of the bloggers who love trees and biodiversity are criticising the official persecution and  massacre of trees in the Maltese Islands.  But those who express such concern are taken to task by one particular blogger who clams that he works at ELC.

2012.04.26 - Up till a few days ago, these orange trees where in full bloom

Sometimes I can hardly believe what I read on this blog in defence of the mutilation of trees and biodiversity by ELC. It is to the tune of the official Government  policy on projects relating to biodiversity, despite the electoral promise of an environmental column. Such a blogger says they he is  writing in his own personal capacity, a right which he has and which he can exercise to create such a discussion. Yet details are given which the public is not aware of. This makes one think that ELC is finding it very convenient to let their alleged workers speak for them, and these cannot do otherwise but  laud all ELC’s works of wonder.  They would certainly be shown the back door if they were to write something which the ELC, or their Ministry, does not approve of. They would be charged with conflict of interest  if   they  criticise, even constructively,  the works of their Ministry. And they will surely get the axe if they make a faux pas, even if what they say  might have been suggested to them.

In criticising Ministerial projects, although the EU obliges public consultations on public projects, blogers are called names, accused of not knowing anything about trees and their ‘pruning’ and also accused of belittiling the ELC workers. This still happens, despite the fact that time and time again, all blogers have made it clear  that workers have to do what they are ordered to do and cannot be held accountable for executing the decisions taken by their employers or their Minister.  But this calling of names is something which is now very synonymous  with such quarters.

2012.04.26 - orange trees in full bloom awaiting the chainsaw and the bulldozer!

The ELC is responsible to the Minister of Resource, whom it shields.  The mania about creating gardens in such fashion, is something well known within this Ministry. A few years ago there was an attempt to transform Buskett into a garden!!

A wild Laurel tree at Buskett - an EU Natura 2000 site - mutilated by ELC with Ministerial approval, in the attempt to transform Buskett into a garden, before MEPA intervened and stopped the works.

Everyone knows of the massacre executed at Buskett by ELC with the blessing of their Minister. Now we have the transformation of the Mdina Ditch into a garden, with TURF and fountains as the Save the Tree site  have been informed by  an ELC alleged spokesman.

Uprooting trees to create  a garden….. very hard to believe. Substituting them with  TURF which takes gallons and gallons of water, such a rare resource in the Maltese Islands, especially in the hot summer months.  The paving of straight-line paths furthermore contributed  to the uprooting of  even more trees. This Ministry seems to have a mania with expanses of turf and dancing-water and fountains, like the dancing-water at St. George’s Square in Valletta. And believe it or not, all this  has been approved by a Ministry responsible for the local scarce resource of WATER, and also for Climate change!!  Unbelievable! I am sure that a  spokesman for this Ministry will come up with some crude explanation and possibly with  more calling of names. But one has to accept that some Ministries  are very good at this type of dialogue! It is their forte.

2012.04.06 - The beauty of the Mdina Ditch - a biodiversity haven. Is this going to be cleared away to make room for a garden? And is this going to be undertaken by EU funds as an insider from ELC has indicated?

The reference to EU funds by the ELC alleged-worker in the Save the Trees blog is interesting because it is coming from this semi-official  bloger in favour of this project leading the public to understand that this project is funded by the EU, saying that 85% of the total cost of the €6.2m project is being funded by the EU! This creates and incongruency with the press release issued by the Minister which  said that it was being done by the Minster’s (public) funds “The works are being carried out by the Restoration Directorate of the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs.” No mention of EU funds; and “The project, costing  €1,200,000, is due to be completed by the end of this year.”  See the attached link for the official press release: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120406/local/works-start-on-recreation-area-in-mdina-ditch.414277

When I visited the site, I failed to notice any reference to any EU involvement on the site. Now if there are any funds from the EU, one of the obligations is that the EU logo has to appear on all the publicity for the project. There are now two version with reference to the financial input to this project: the Ministerial publicity which refrains from mentioning any EU involvement; and EU funding according to a bloger with ELC connections.  Which is the correct version?  I am sure that the EU would be very interested in knowing  how its funds, if it has funded this project, are being ‘used’ and ‘managed’, what the public opinion vis-a-vis this project is, and how such project is impacting on biodiversity!

According to EU obligations, whether it has financed the project or not, the  public is entitled to a breakdown of the money which is going into this project, such as  how much the turf will cost, the quantity of water it will consume per annun and at what cost; how much will be the upkeep, how much did the planners and designers charge, and how much will the launching of the  project cost.

The lack of any biodiversity and social concept are evidently lacking to any informed visitor. This view is sustained by the comments supporting this project on the Save the Trees  blog: Orange trees are being uprooted because they interfere with the vision of the bastions, but fountains do not! And insects and birds aren’t going to commit suicide, if they do not find a tree, they go on another one, the  Rabat environs are full of trees. ( L-insetti u l-ghasafar mhux ser jaghmlu suwwicidju, jekk ma jsibux sigra, imorru fuq ohra, inhawi tar-Rabat huma mimlija sigar min daqsekk). Not surprising at all since this is the recurring approach used by the Ministry under whose responsibility this project falls!  No wonder that when the same Ministry was responsible for the EU measure to tackle biodiversity loss, it made a complete mess and failure out of it.

The official Ministerial publicity material attached to the bastins, (shown above) states that this project is a Rehabillitation of the ditch. In contrast, the bloger with ELC inside informations states that “The ditch outside Mdina’s bastions from Greek’s gate to Xara Palace including the area below the main gate, is being turned into a recreational space which will be open to the public”. There is a great difference between ‘rehabilitation of the ditch’ and changing its use to a recreational area, especially when the tennis court, the basketball pitch, and the football pitch, which formed part of the ditch to be rehabilitated have been removed.

Somebody is surely trying to take the people for a ride despite the fact that the Prime Minister has promised that he will come closer to the people to listen to what they  have to say…………    I understand that heeding it is another matter!

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7 Responses to MASSACRE OF MDINA DITCH TREES – IS THE EU REALLY INVOLVED?

  1. Mr.Baldacchino, I would like to collect some seeds of the Christ’s Thorn from San Anton Gardens so that I can propagate this rare indeginous tree, before it is too late. Can you kindly indicate in which section of the garden the tree grows and when the tree seeds?

    • Many thanks indeed for your interest in the Paliurus spina-christi, vernacularly known as the Jerusalem Thorn, Christ’s Thorn, or Crown of Thorns, an indigenous tree native to the Mediterranean region.

      This tree is listed in Schedule I of the Trees and Woodlands Protection Regulations, Legal Notice 200 of 2011. According to such protection, no person shall carry out or attempt to carry out any action, which, in the opinion of MEPA – the Competent Authority responsible for the protection of tree – may be damaging to listed trees in Schedules I.

      Furthermore, no person shall fell or attempt to fell, cut or attempt to cut, strip off or attempt to strip off the bark or leaves of, uproot or attempt to uproot, remove or attempt to remove timber from, affix or attempt to affix something to, or in any way destroy or attempt to destroy, damage or attempt to damage, any tree or part thereof
      listed in Schedule I.

      The only known living specimen of this tree in the Maltese Islands is the one growing in San Anton Gardens. This was planted by the eminent Professor John Borg, when he was Superintendent of the Department of Agriculture. All other wild growing trees in the Maltese Islands are thought to be extinct.

      With regards to your question relating to the picking of Jerusalem Thorn seeds, these can be found around autumn, though the last time I have seen it, it did not have one single leave on it after being ‘pruned’. But considering that this is the only living specimen of the protected species, it would be best if you were to contact the Environment Protection Directorate within MEPA for advice on how to proceed. I do not blame you if you were to ask why you need advice from MEPA when your intention is to propagate the species to ensure its survival, when MEPA gave a permit to the Government Private Partner to instruct its workmen to prune the tree to the state it has been rendered. Or if such permit was not issued, why it did not enforce the regulations and took the prescribed measures!

      I would not be surprised if the Government Private Partner, that is the ELC, does not know anything about the importance of this single specimen, not even where it is growing. From the way trees are being mismanaged, even in public gardens, I would be surprised if they know anything about it. These directions may perhaps help them to realise the importance of the tree, and hopefully that it will not eventually disappear completely, before you can manage to pick some seeds for a good cause.

      To find the Jerusalem Thorn, if you enter San Anton Gardens from the back door, which is from the Lija side, and go beyond the President’s Palace, proceed towards the main central duck-pond. At the end of that path, on your left is a big old Sandarac Gum Tree, the National Tree, l-Għargħar. This was also planted by Prof. John Borg. If only we had leaders of the same calibre, acadamic background and vision, I can assure you that Malta would be much much richer in the appreciation of trees, but unfortunately… … A few meters to the left and under this Għargħar tree, you can find the pitiful remains of the Jerusalem Thorn or Christ Thorn tree. Hanging from two remaining outstretched branches, you can see the metal label, also put in place by Prof. John Borg, with its scientific name Paliurus spina-christi.

      I would greatly appreciate if you let us know of your experience on meeting and seeing the remains of the Christ Thorn tree. And if you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let me know.

  2. Mr.Baldacchino, I have just visited the tree at it seems to have a lot of new growth, so hopefully it should recover from the latest ‘pruning’. However, it does not have any flowers yet….I do not know if this is normal for this time of the year. I will check on the tree again within a few weeks.

    • Many thanks Mr Micallef for updating us with information regarding the locally rare, protected Christ’s Thorn Tree, which has suffered at the hands of the Government’s contractor. I am not surprised in the least that it is not in flower following the shock it has undergone. Its flowering period is from April to June, so one hopes that it can seed this year.
      Thanks once again for keep us informed on the state of this rare tree. If you can manage to take a photo or two of its recovery, it would also be appreciated.
      Regards.

  3. Mr.Baldacchino, I have visited the tree again this morning. Finally the yellow flowers are just appearing now. Should you wish, I have a few photos of the recovering tree. I will check the tree again in a few weeks time. Regards.

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