Environmental disorientation

January 31, 2014

times of malta

January 31, 2014

Environmental disorientation

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Political environmental awareness reached its climax in 2004 before accession to the EU. Membership achieved, environment started a political nose­dive. ‘Merged’ with the Planning Authority, it was hijacked, destabilised and emarginated. Look at how environmental matters are being handled today by MEPA, politically referred to only just for convenience sake with no conviction at all. This led nine environment NGOs to show their disapproval of the lack of professional management of the environment.

2013 can be regarded as the year when environment disorientation reached its peak, and environment conservation hit rock bottom. To the extent that MEPA ­ the competent authority for the EU Environment Acquis is not within the control and not in the portfolio of the Minister for the Environment, but managed and run by the Office of the Prime Minister, through a Parliamentary Secretary.  MEPA, who never really showed any zeal or understanding of environmental responsibilities, except for producing nicely coloured publications and policies, which nobody takes any notice of, not even Mepa itself, had a field day. Stable doors were flung wide open allowing horses not only to gallop out but to stampede over all environmental and social considerations. Reason for this sad and sorry state of affairs is that the environment and planning directorates are going to be separated. All environmental matters are in deep freeze, till the day, when the surgical operation of dismembering Mepa will see the light of day. In the meantime development permits are being dished out with little, if any, environmental or social concern. When the environment is given the kiss of life, then it won’t be MEPA problem any more to see how the vacated stables door can be closed to keep the freed horse inside.

Why was MEPA not included in the environment portfolio until the operation takes place, and then the planning directorate passed to the appropriate Minister? Because environment is not a priority. It never was.


One of the expensive muddles regarding EU obligations is the Water Framework Directive: not an easy Directive by all means, the more so since Malta is an island. This Directive covers both surface, and underground water: a matter of life and death for all life in the country. 2013 saw this resource in such a pitiful state as it has never been since the advent of man on these islands. Projects inherited from previous water-drop1years, included an educational programme piloted by one Minister and sponsored by a local bank to catch every drop of water, while another Minister happily boasting and spending 57 million euros or more, mostly coming from the EU, excavating underground tunnels so that every drop of rain­water caught is swept into the sea, after bulldozing biodiversity in valleys. Yet another Minister responsible for EU funds to see to the purification of drainage water, not to harvest such resource, but to dispose of it into the sea with a certain pride and satisfaction of


Rain water which comes for free is chanelled to the sea. Then sea water is pumped up to be desalinated by energy consuming desalinators!

being unique in the EU! Still another Minister trying to find his way through an inherited tangled cobweb, trying to plug the holes through which water tankers plying the local streets, selling water extracted for free from the aquifers. Another Minister is financing the desalination of sea water (containing dumped purified drainage water) by energy consuming desalination plants. I cannot not mention water park, the dancing fountains and the expanses of turf being laid, taking gallons and gallons of water sprinkled everyday with the approval of the Ministry for landscaping. And a postponed and postponed national water policy, in the face of a possible EU infraction.  Great Political management of the environment! Shall we soon be singing ring a ring o’roses? God forbid.

“Environment destruction is turning our lives upside-down”

The monument for environmental and social destruction during 2013, without doubt was the Nadur cemetery in Gozo; built on a priceless ecological water catchment area, destroying works of the Knights to harvest rain water, and putting the ecosystem and the life of a farming community in danger, by depriving them of water and by flooding other farmers’ fields because of the hydrological changes in the area. A 600­ grave cemetery to be run on a time share basis blessed by that Competent Authority for the Environment, MEPA; blessed by the local politicians; helped by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal who like Pontius Pilate washed its hands from such a catastrophic social and environmental crime; and developed, built and blessed by the Gozo Church Diocese. A cemetery whose first intakes were Mepa’s and


the Gozo Diocese’s environmental and social conscience. Only God can forgive such an environmental and social crime, approved in 2013. To add insult to injury, this happened in Eco ­Gozo, cementing the lip service for ecological protection and the lack of understanding of biodiversity.


The good thing about environment in 2013 is that I have run out of space, and cannot delve deeper on the proposed changes to the Outside Development Zones, and Structure Plan; the Xemxija scandalous planning decision, biodiversity loss and the invasion of alien species, and other policies in the pipeline in favour of further myopic development, such as land reclamation, Hondoq ir-Rummien, the Malta-­Gozo tunnel both in Eco Gozo, all burdening the environment and society with more hidden costs and destruction.

What of 2014 one might ask? Following the liaise-faire in environmental and social awareness by politicians and other social entities since accession to the EU, one can only say that environmentalists, socialists and nationalists (nothing to do with politicians) atheists and believers alike, would better fasten their seat belts. Past decisions can only reflect further destruction of the environmental and social fabric, rendering our country a difficult and unhealthy place to live in. The momentum of these negative impacts on society and the environment can already be seen and felt. Development and money matters are holding the political decision makers of this country at gun point, at a cost to the environment and society.

times 1

Photo and caption in the Times: Changes burdening the environment and society with more hidden costs and destruction were also proposed for Eco-Gozo. Photo: viewingmalta.com

Every time I get to think about this, with every thought of where all this will lead us to, makes me feel that I can’t tell the bottom from the top. Am I standing on my head or on my heels? Is it cloudy is it bright? Is it day or is it night? Am I wrong or am I right? And is it real?

Environment destruction is turning our living upside-down. But why cannot this country ever grow up?

I have as yet refrained from answering my question as to whether all this is sheer inexperience in good governance, or a shrewd diabolical political psychology.


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Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 1– Il-Ħannewija

August 16, 2013

logoSocjetà Filarmonika Nicolò Isouard – Festa Santa Marija 2013

Il­-Ħannewija (Achantus mollis)  Bear’s breeches

 Alfred E. Baldacchino

 Il­-ħannewija hija pjanta indiġena fir­-reġjun tal­-Mediterran u tinfirex mill­-Portugal u l­-majjistral tal­-Afrika sal­-Kroazja. Hija pjanta indiġena wkoll fil­-gżejjer Maltin, fejn tħaddar is­-sena kollha u tikber minn sena għall­-oħra minn riżoma, li tixbah għerq taħt l­-art.

L­-isem xjentifiku ta’ din il-­pjanta Acanthus mollis ġej mill-­Grieg u mil-Latin. Acanthus tfisser xewka, minħabba l­-weraq modifikati (sepals) iniggżu li jdawru l-­fjura, filwaqt li mollis ġejja mil­-Latin minħabba l­-weraq lixxi tagħha.

Weraq, fjuri,  u żerriegħa

Il­-ħannewija togħla bejn 30 u­ 80 ċm, saħansitra 180 ċm bit-­tul tal-­fjuri. Hi tifrex madwar metru wiesa’. Il-­weraq jinħassu rotob meta tmisshom, u jikbru mill­-qiegħ tal­-pjanta. Huma ħodor skuri jleqqu, u matul parti mix­-xifer tagħhom sa nofs il-­werqa jkollhom qtugħ qishom swaba’. Il-weraq huma madwar 40 ċm twal b’25 ċm wiesa’ u jikbru fuq għonq twil.


Il­-fjuri tal-­ħannewija

Il-­fjuri sbieħ tagħha, li jistgħu jdumu jwarrdu għal madwar ħmistax­-il ġurnata, huma vjola u bojod u jikbru fuq magħseb dritt u twil. Wieħed jista’ jara dawn il-­fjuri minn madwar Marzu sa Ġunju. Ġo fihom hemm erba’ għenuq irġiel li fil-­ponta tagħhom iġorru t­-trab tad­-dakkra, u li jixbhu pniezel żgħar. L-­istess fjuri jġorru l-­ovarji nisa li jagħtu bidu biex isawru ż­-żerriegħa. Il-­fjuri jkunu mdakkra permezz tan-­naħal u tal-­bombli (bumble bees) li huma kbar u b’saħħithom biżżejjed biex jidħlu fil-­fjura sabiex jilħqu l-­għasel fil-­qiegħ tagħha.

Dan il-­bukkett fjuri jikber fuq magħseb tond għoli bejn 30 sa 40 ċm, li jista’ jkollu fuqu sa 120 fjura. Il-­fjuri li fihom 5 ċm, huma f’għamla ta’ tubu, bil­-petali bojod b’vini vjola fir-­roża. Dawn ikunu mdawra bi tliet werqiet, ħodor jew vjola skur, dik tan-­nofs tkun tniggeż aktar mit-­tnejn l-­oħra. Kull waħda minn dawn għandha par xofftejn: ta’ fuq tkun vjola.

Il-­frotta tal-­ħannewija hija ovali forma ta’ bajda, bil-­parti l-­aktar wiesgħa n-­naħa tal­-magħseb. Meta din tinxef tinqasam u tinfetaħ biex iż-­żerriegħa tkun tista’ titferrex. Xi drabi jkunu sparati ‘l barra.

Ambjent naturali

Il-­ħannewija tħobb postijiet kennija b’ħamrija mrammla jew inkella ħamrijia sinjura, u tista’ tikber ukoll f’ħamrija taflija. Tikber f’postijiet xemxija, għalkemm fi klima sħuna tagħżel postijiet kważi dejjem imdella. Pjanti xjuħ lanqas jiddejqu f’ħamrija niexfa jew niedja u jifilħu wkoll għan­-nixfa. Il­-ħannewija tiflaħ temperaturi baxxi sakemm l­-għerq ewlieni jkun magħmul u jikber f’’art li toskula l-­ilma. Imma l­-ħannewija ma tħobbx ħamrija mgħarrqa fl-­ilma u lanqas tħobb tgħaddi x­-xitwa f’’ħamrija dejjem imxarrba. Tinsab tikber kemm fi nħawi dellija kif ukoll taħt siġar ħorfija, jiġifieri, siġar li jinżgħu mill-­weraq fix­-xhur xitwin.

Sakemm taqbad, il­-ħannewija tieħu madwar sentejn, iżda mbagħad tissaħħaħ sewwa u togħla. Il-­weraq jitfaċċaw mill-­art u jikbru b’saħħithom madwar xulxin, u minn nofshom jitfaċċaw il­-fjuri.

Storja u kultura

Il­-ħannewija hija pjanta magħrufa biex iżżejjen u tintuża wkoll fil­-ġonna. Hija waħda mill­-ewwel pjanti li ġew ikkultivati. Kienet tintuża ħafna mill­-Griegi u mir­-Rumani li kienu wkoll ikabbruha fil­-ġonna tagħhom. Il­-ħannewija hija mfittxija ħafna minn dawk li jużaw il­-pjanti biex isebbħu l­-art, għalkemm sfortunatament mhux f’Malta. Hija meqjusa wkoll bħala simbolu tal-­immortalità, u minħabba f’hekk tinsab imnaqqxa ukoll fuq lapidi fiċ­-ċimiterji.


Fdalijiet Rumani f’Jerash, il­-Ġordan, juru l-­irjus tal-­kolonni mnaqqxa bil­-weraq tal-ħannewija

Saħansitra  il­-weraq tagħha nebbħu wkoll lid-­disinjaturi li naqqxuha fl-­għamara, f’manuskritti mpinġija, fil-­ġojjellerija, f’xogħol tal­-metal, injam, xogħol tal-­fidda, ċeramika, stokk u disinji fuq il­-ħitan, u anki f’arkitettura klassika. Naraw li l­-werqa tal­-ħannewija hija waħda mid-disinji l-­aktar użati mill­-qedem sal­-aħħar tas-­seklu dsatax, jekk mhux aktar. Tant kellha seher fil-­passat din il-­pjanta li l­-istudjużi tal-­istorja huma tal-­fehma li l-­weraq tagħha kienu l­-qofol tad­-disinn fl­-irjus tal­-kolonni fl-­arkitettura Grec0-Rumana. Skont manuskritti Rumani, disinji tal-­weraq tal-­ħannewija l-­ewwel li ntużaw fl-­arkitettura stil Korintu fuq ir-­ras tal-­kolnonni. Din  kienet ukoll użata bi ftit tibdil fl-­arti Kristjani u f’dik Biżantina. Wieħed jista’ jara din użata b’sengħa kbira f’xi knejjes f’Firenza, fl-­Italja.

Mediċina tradizzjonali

Bħal ħafna pjanti oħra, il­-weraq u I­-għeruq tal­-ħannewija wkoll kienu użati fil-­mediċina tradizzjonali.

Taħlita magħmula mill­-ħannewija kienet tindilek fuq il­-ġogi biex tgħin il­-muskoli u l­-ligamenti jinġibdu jew jintreħew u b’hekk tgħinhom jerġgħu jsibu l­-post naturali tagħhom fil­-ġisem.

Il­-weraq imfarrak tal­-ħannewija kien jintuża bħala ġbara biex itaffi l­-ħruq u l­-partijiet mismuta fil­-ġisem. Kimika karatteristika tagħha kienet ukoll tintuża biex ittaffi nħawi irritati ġewwa l-­kanal tal-­ikel u postijiet sensittivi oħra tal­-ġisem.

Ir­Rumani wkoll kienu jgħallu l-­għeruq biex jagħmlu ġbajjar biex jikkuraw ħruq, għadam imfekkek, gotta u kontra t­-telf tax-­xagħar.

Tant kienet użata bħala mediċina tradizzjonali fil-­passat li f’xi kunventi qodma fl­-Ewropa għadha tinstab tikber fil­ġonna fi rqajja’ tal­-ħxejjex mediċinali.


Il­-ħannewija tista’ titnissel miż­-żerriegħa hekk kif din tkun saret. Din tnibbet wara xi tlieta jew erba’ ġimgħat u meta n-­nibbieta tkun kbira biżżejjed biex tintrefa’, għandha titħawwel waħda waħda f’qasira. Wara madwar sentejn tista’ titħawwel fl­-art tard fir-­rebbiegħa jew kmieni fis-­sajf. Tista’ wkoll titnissel billi jittieħdu biċċiet mir-­riżoma. Dawn il­-biċċiet għandhom jittieħdu tard fil­-ħarifa jew kmieni fix­-xitwa u wara ftit gimgħat li jitpoġġew fuq il­-ħamrija jidhru l­weraq.

Użu fil­-ġonna

Barra minn pajjiżna il­-ħannewija tintuża ħafna fil­-ġonna u anki fit-tisbiħ ta’ artijiet pubbliċi. Dan jista’ ukoll jibda’ jsir f’pajjiżna u filwaqt li ssebbaħ fejn titħawwel, tgħin ukoll biex tqajjem kuxjenza aktar b’saħħitha favur l­-apprezzament tal-­wirt naturali Malti, kif ukoll tgħin biex ma jinħlewx riżorsi u hekk dawn ikunu jistgħu jintużaw aħjar.

Barra minn Malta, il-­ħannewija, iżżejjen il-­ġonna-pubbliċi bil-­weraq kbar u l-­fjuri sbieħ tagħha.

Barra minn Malta, il-­ħannewija, iżżejjen il-­ġonna pubbliċi bil­-weraq kbar u l-­fjuri sbieħ tagħha.

Fil-­madwar tal­-Mosta il­-ħannewija tista’ titkabbar, fost oħrajn, quddiem iċ­-ċentru ċiviku ħdejn il­-knisja, u anki ngħidu aħna, fil-­gżejjer tat-traffiku mdaqqsa li hemm kif wieħed ikun dieħel jew kif ikun ħiereg mill­-Mosta, u anki matul Vjal l­Indipendenza.