Our ‘landscaping’ needs professional updating


Thursday, 2nd March, 2017

Universe of Faith talks to Alfred E. Baldacchino, an environmental expert who is highly concerned about the fact that in Malta, we keep repeating the same mistakes detrimental to human health, the environment and the economy.

Fountain grass, Penisetum at Dingli. Photo: Alfred E. Baldacchino

Fountain grass, Penisetum sp. at Dingli. Photo: Alfred E. Baldacchino

“In the 1970s the government introduced Acacias trees which are detrimental to some people suffering from asthma, allergies, sinusitis etc. This alien species was introduced in Malta after a donation to the government of the time. Today, landscapers are doing the same mistakes by introducing alien species in our roundabouts, streets and other urban areas. One such example is the fountain grass, Penisetum, which following its planting in major roads, has now escaped and is growing uncontrolled along streets, in fields and also in valleys, competing with indigenous flora.” He explained that while there are also indigenous plants which can cause allergies these grow in small quantities and not invasively like the alien species.

Alfred believes that landscaping our streets needs to be combined with respect for the local wildlife and ecosystem. “Australia and New Zealand spray each plane that lands to control the introduction of alien insects from being accidentally introduced in their country. They have learned their lesson hard after Europeans introduced foreign species which brought havoc to their indigenous biodiversity. England is spending billions to control the negative impacts of invasive species. What can we learn from them?”

Carob brownies. Carob can be used as an alternative to choclate, it is also used as syryp, powder in both human and animal nutrition

Carob brownies. Carob can be used as an alternative to choclate, it is also used as syryp, powder in both human and animal nutrition

He insists that our approach needs to change and that things can be done more professionally. “We can use many of our indigenous flora, which are so easy to propagate. We have so many beautiful wildflowers. Israel uses indigenous trees, such as the carob, to landscape its streets. We can do the same. Indigenous flora should be propagated locally and not imported for commercial reasons. This would help economically, ecologically and socially. We have to put our priorities right. Environmental landscaping needs to move hand in hand socially and ecologically.”

He also warns about the dangers of importing olive trees which are suffering from a deadly disease causing great economical and ecological damages. “Do we have to go through such negative ecological and economical experience to make us aware of the actions that needed to be taken?” he asks.

Honeywort, Qniepen, Cerinthe Major. Photo: Stephen Mifsud www.maltawildplants.com

Honeywort, Qniepen, Cerinthe major. Photo: Stephen Mifsud http://www.maltawildplants.com

Alfred calls for the appreciation of our indigenous plants, those which have been adorning our country before the arrival of man, as well as implementing clear policies concerning alien invasive species which are destroying our ecosystems.

Pope Francis, in his recent letter On Care for Our Common Home also echoes this thinking when he said that some profits cause “terrible injustices, much greater than the economic benefit to be obtained,”. He also dedicates thirteen paragraphs (24, 32-42, 169, 190) of this letter on the value and protection of biodiversity.

Published: March 2017

Further Reading:
How can I become a “Green Catholic”?

6 Responses to Our ‘landscaping’ needs professional updating


    I full agree with you
    we have about 60 indigenous trees in Malta
    a tree for every situation
    we should not be using exotics.
    and how about the bulbous plants ?

    • Fully agree with you Brian. Unfortunately the present ‘landscapers’ do not have any idea of ecological responsibility. Otherwise they would be landscaping on your own suggestions. They are just a profit motivated entity, without any consideration for social and environmental responsibility. Look at the number of species that have been introduced since they started receiving €8 million annually from our taxes. Look at the amount of water they use to irrigate species which are not suitable for our Country. Look at the butchered trees allover the island. And when they know that the Minister of Landscaping, Minister Joe Mizzi, is withholding the publication of the contract they have with government, they seem to have a blank cheque.

      It would be easier to try to bring back La Valette sword from France than to instill any environmental and social responsibility in this greedy money grabbing ‘partnership’.

  2. gaucivincent says:

    Eradicating alien invasive species is more expensive and more laborious than taking preventive action. Indeed, it may be impossible to reverse the damage caused by such a species. This is the case of the the Castor Oil tree which has invaded our valleys and competes successfully with indigenous species. Let us practise a more professional landscaping. ELC please note.

    • Vince, you are indeed optimistic to tell ELC to note. As if they will ever cut down on profits to accommodate social and environmental responsibilities! Hallina Vincent. Why do you think that Minister Joe Mizzi who is responsibnle for landscaping is doing his utmost to prevent the publication of the agreement ELC has with Goverment, where he pays them €8 million per annum. And for your info. The Commissioner for Data Protection has ruled that Ministr Mizzi has to forward it to me following my request. I believe that you have heard the Maltese proverb which says that “Hawn min iqaxxar qamla għall-ħabba”.

  3. Pennisetum has run rampant in the Canary Islands and is found absolutely everywhere. I predict that will happen in Malta as it is very difficult to eliminate once established in the wild.If Malta hasn’t got one already it needs and alien species management plan and policies to support control measures. We have one in Ireland.

    • Yes Karl, unfortunately officially Malta tends to copy mistakes of other countries. And not only so but those who commit such anti-social and anti-environmental activities, not only are not stopped from continuing with their greedy commercial activities, but are also helped financially by our governments. The introduction of Penisetum in the Maltese Islands is part of a project where the ‘landscapers’ are given €8 million euro for their ‘landscaping’ activities. Not bad eh, that is if one is involved against Malta’s national and international obligations! The present Minister Joe Mizzi who is responsible for such ‘landscaping’ is also objecting to publish the agreement these ‘landscapers’ have with government, despite the fact the Commissioner of data protection has ruled in favour of its publication.

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