More biodiversity destruction with EU funds – confirmed

March 10, 2019

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Sunday, 10th March, 2019

Following my latest blog of 4th March 2019, regarding the destruction of Maltese biodiversity by the Ministry for Transport, with the use of EU funds,  Infrastructure Malta, in the portfolio of Dr Ian Borg, the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, have issued a statement saying that the works being carried out are being done “within existing road footprint” and ” “in line with applicable road works permits”.

On the other hand, the Environment and Resource Authority in its press statement  dated Tuesday 5th March, 2019, confirmed that the government road agency’s work had been carried out without the necessary permits, resulting in “environmental destruction”.

ERA’s press release confirmed that: Because of these works, it resulted that there is the destruction of the natural habitat suffered from the laying of construction material on the land which before was colonised by natural vegetation; leading to a physical change of the valley and the water course’s profile.

Besides, these works are all taking place without the necessary permits from the Authority (ERA).

For ease of reference to those who want to see for themselves, this is the link of the ERA press release.

I am sure that the Ministry for Transport officials have brought this ERA statement to their Minster.

Minister Ian Borg knows the site very well because it is in his constituency. A visit to the site, would at once reveal that the Ministry for Transport agency Infrastructure Malta’s press-release is totally incorrect, not only scientifically, factually, but also politically.

The gutter on the right shows to what extent the rich valley bed has been reduced to. And according to Ministry for Transport, this is a footprint of the once farmer’s country path. 

By all means let the farmers be given a helping hand, but not by widening a country path to two or three lanes. And certainly not by obliterating a valley bed, so rich in indigenous Maltese biodiversity, and disrupting the hydrology of the area, impeding the contribution to the water table and the farmers’ wells, if this is of any importance to the Minster’s experts in road widening.

Neither is it in the farmers’ interest in having their rubble walls destabilised, which eventually will be so detrimental to them.

Which professional architect, (unless of course over-ruled), would plan, and approve such damaging works which will lead to the eventual destruction of the rubble wall, and say it is in the interest of the farmers.

Renowned botanists friends of mine have confirmed that a rare indigenous protected tree was destroyed and annihilated, in the parts where the works were carried out by the Ministry for Transport.

A number of environmental NGOs and individuals have also all expressed their concern, dismay and anger against such damaging works by this Ministry.

I am sure Minister’s Borg ‘experts’ have drawn his attention to a number of EU Directives all of which have obligations, even with regards to the works in valleys. Just in case they did not, I would like to draw the Minster’s attention to the following:

  • Valleys are all subject to the EU Water Framework Directive. The local Competent Authority recognised by the EU for surface water in the Maltese Islands is The Energy and Water Agency, in the portfolio of the Ministry for Energy and Water Management, Joe Mizzi. Has the Ministry for Transport discussed the hydrological impacts of their works with this Ministry?
  • Biodiversity management, protection and enforcement is under the responsibility of the Environment and Resources Authority – ERA, in the portfolio of the Minister for Environment, Dr José Herrera, mainly through the EU Habitat Directive, and other International Conventions. Has the Ministry for Transport discussed the impact of their works with this Ministry. Definitely not, according to ERA itself.
  • Wied l-isqof is adjacent to the Natura 2000 site of Buskett and Girgenti. This means, according to the EU Habitats Directive, that any works even outside the boundary of the Natura 2000 site which can have an impact on the Natura 2000 site has to be discussed with the Competent Authority recognised by the EU, that is, ERA. Has Transport Malta discussed the negative biodiversity impacts of their works with this Ministry? Definitely not.
  • The newly appointed AmbjentMalta, is also responsible for valley management. It is also in the portfolio of the Minister for the Environment. Has Transport Malta discussed the impact of their works with this Ministry. Again definitely not as also confirmed by The Ministry for the Environment itself.
  • I would not like to mention the Planning Authority because as far as I am concerned, this authority, coincidentally in the portfolio of Dr Ian Borg Ministry, is more of a rubber stamp than anything else, with only paper professionalism not reflected in decisions taken.
  • The question is: from whom did the Ministry for Transport obtain the necessary permits as stated in their press statement?

I cannot image that the Energy and Water Agency responsible in Malta for honouring the obligations of the EU Water Framework Directive, agreed to render the valley at Wied l-Isqof to a gutter. Perhaps the Ministry for Transport can explain.

I have known Dr Ian Borg since he was a Mayor at Dingli Local Council. We had long discussions regarding the environment. I was convinced that he would be in the front line to protect our natural and international heritage for the good of our country Malta. I still do believe this, unless of course I am corrected by Dr Borg himself.

That is why I ask myself, how is it possible that such biodiversity damaging works are being carried out under his political responsibility, which are far from being environmental friendly in any way.

This make me think that the Minster is not being kept up to date and made aware of the damages being done by his Ministry’s, funded  by the EU.

I am sure that his biodiversity ‘experts’ cannot distinguish between a Sonchus and a Sambucus, and are completely unaware of environmental obligations Malta has, both nationally and internationally.

The damages being done is not just environmentally. It also reflects lack of good governance. It highlights the degradation of the biodiversity of Malta, who as a member of the EU, is obliged to safeguard biodiversity by 2020, according to the EU biodiversity Strategy 2020, This is not done by using EU funds to destroy biodiversity in the name of ‘help to farmers’.

Such works are also embarrassing those Ministries responsible for EU Directives above mentioned, who were not even consulted, not to include the whole country vis-a-vis the EU, if this is of any concern to the Ministry for Transport.

Infrastructure Malta has issued tenders for resurfacing works of various rural roads (IM001/2019). Can the Minister, who has the ultimate responsibility, ensure the Maltese people that such works will not continue to destroy more biodiversity with EU funds, but will be undertaken in line with Malta’s national and international obligations? Can he also take action to restore the damages done in country paths by his Ministry?

Photos have already appeared on the social media with regards to biological diversity massacre at il-Lunzjata.

More biodiversity destruction in il-Lunzjata Malta (subject to correction this is also in the Minister for Transport constituency). One can see the old footprint, and the additional widening resulting in the destruction of biodiversity, presumably with EU funds also. One can also see the butchering of trees undertaken. Can ERA please note and take necessary action. (photos Courtesy of V Abela Facebook/09.03.2019)

https://www.etenders.gov.mt/epps/cft/viewContractNotices.do?resourceId=5258763&fbclid=IwAR2YqL7wX72IATtkm_AVXFwVR0ik-heisQtCZ45fbTzjdAQ6WIYZdFboVgA

If the Minister can bring this electoral poster to the attention of his officials, perhaps they can remember this electoral promise.

One thing is very very obvious. Infrastructure Malta are carrying out works in the name of the Minister, without any professional expertise in biodiversity, or hydrology, no awareness of national and international obligations, and no consultations whatsoever, either with official entities, like ERA, and the Energy and Water Agency, or with individuals and NGOs. The fact that they are undertaking road works with EU funds, does not justify the bulldozing of biodiversity as is being done.

I will still be following the development of such works, not only in the farmers’ interest, but also in the interest of the protection of our national natural heritage, in line with national and international obligations, for the benefit of this and future generations who have lent it to us. And knowing Dr Ian Borg, I do expect his help in achieving this.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

related article:

EU funds destroy Maltese biodiversity

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Propagating Maltese trees

September 19, 2017

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Are you interested in trees? Do you love trees? Do you want to know more on the Maltese indigenous trees which have been adorning our Country before man set foot on these islands? Do you want to start propagating these trees yourself and contribute to their conservation? Do you want to give a helping hand towards their protection?

If yes, then this is an opportunity not to be missed. Your benefit will also be the trees benefit.

See you there.

 


EU funds endanger Buskett N2K site

May 13, 2017

Saturday, 13th May, 2017

Endangering Buskett 
Alfred E. Baldacchino

Buskett is a Tree Protection Area, with some trees protected for their antiquity, a scheduled woodland, an Area of Ecological Importance, a Site of Scientific Importance, a Site of European Importance, a Special Area of Conservation, a Bird Protection Area, and above all an EU Natura 2000 site.

The remains of an Ash Tree, after being handled by a Landscaper, in the Natura 2000 Buskett.

Yet, to date Buskett has never been professionally managed, especially on the lines of EU obligations. Never. There is absolutely no will, no vision, and no professional commitment. To the extent that a past environment minister was made to believe that Buskett is a garden. There were plans to transform this important ecological habitat into a ‘quality garden’ on the lines eventually implemented at the Mdina Ditch.

One would have thought that this was just a political flash in the pan by a gullible politician who was taken in by those with commercial interests. But to this day, professional environmental responsibilities still have not reached the level of Cabinet’s political acumen.

The only type of management approved by the Authority for the Protection of the Environment is the chopping down of protected trees, such as this one in Buskett – A Natura 2000 site.

As an EU member, Malta had to have management plans implemented for all Natura 2000 sites by six years after accession. This deadline was not met.

Following public consultations, later approved by the government, and boasted about by the incumbent Minister for the Environment, management plans are not yet implemented, and it seems they will never be.

A recent visit to Buskett revealed the complete political failure, lack of professionalism and irresponsibility with regards to the management of this important EU Natura 2000 site.

Clearance of important natural habitat in a Natura 2000 site to restore of a rubble wall.

An extensive area of maquis was recklessly bulldozed and obliterated to enable the restoration of a rubble wall. While the restoration of rubble walls is necessary, and those in hand are being professionally built, this can never justify the massacre of flora and fauna: habitat and species of European importance.

The rich maquis habitat as it was before it was bulldozed with the blessing of the Ministry for the Environment.

I wandered around Buskett and I could see piles of earth and stones dumped on sensitive habitats: habitats important for rare and endangered species, all listed in the data sheets sent to the EU to justify the importance of such a Special Area of Conservation of European Interest.

A butchered Ash Tree where, a couple of weeks before, I was photographing its new seeds.

Piles of stones and earth dumped on sensitive habitat in this EU Natura 2000 site.

It is heartbreaking to see two protected and rare hawthorn trees that were chopped from ground level to make way for machinery, earth and stone dumping. A rare protected ash tree was heavily butchered.

Unfortunately European Union funds are being mismanaged, endangering an important sensitive habitat which according to EU legislation, the Minister for the Environment is obliged to protect on behalf of Malta and the EU.

According to the EU Habitats Directive (article 6.3), an appropriate assessment has to be drawn up for any plan or project not directly connected with, or necessary to the management of a Natura 2000 site, but which is likely to have a significant effect thereon, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects. Such an appropriate assessment is needed to highlight the implications for the site in view of its conservation objective.

The national competent authority for the EU Habitats Directive (the Environment and Resource Authority – ERA) shall eventually endorse the plan or project only after having ascertained that the conclusions of such assessment regarding the implications for the SAC will not adversely affect the integrity of the SAC concerned. ERA is also obliged, if appropriate, to obtain the opinion of the general public.

Two mature protected hawthorn trees in this Natura 2000 site, 2.5 metres high, were raised to the ground seemingly by the approval of the Ministry for the Environment and ERA 

Can the minister publish the appropriate assessment made (naturally if it has been done), which enabled the ERA board to approve such works in this important Natura 2000 site?

If not available, then ERA approved such works blindfolded, which is very irresponsible, or else the ministry is in complete darkness of its responsibility, and its personnel is on a wild unmonitored spree to obliterate a delicate natural habitat just to restore a rubble wall. Ironically, posters at Buskett advertise these works as an EU-funded Life Saving Project.

It seems that following the acquiring of EU funds, the most important thing is to nail a poster acknowledging EU. How these funds are spent, and whether they are in line with the obligations of the EU Environment Acquis, is not important, not even to the Ministry.

Considering the fact that the minister’s Environment and Resource Authority board is made up of the cream of the crop of Maltese academics, such officially approved ecological damage with EU funds is worse than one can image, both from a professional, an administrative and a political point of view.

60 mature olive trees were chopped down by the approval and financing of the University of Malta, following populist demands. So if it can be done on the University campus, why not on public land?

It reminds me of the massacre of 60 established olive trees on the university campus, where no one batted an eye. We now have to suffer this ecological destruction in a Special Area of Conservation of national and European importance. Seems that academic qualifications today at best are of secondary importance when one sits on a political board.

Have we reached a stage where the destruction of the environment and the ecosystem has achieved virtual academic qualifications, approved not only by politicians but also by the top academic institution of this unfortunate country that seems to sit and tacitly approve?

This is a glaring declaration of total failure of the ministry’s obligations with regards to the protection of the environment. It seems that the latest environment ministers, one from either side of the local political hegemony, are competing among themselves as to who is the most committed to the destruction of biodiversity.

It would do no harm to remind, once again, the environmental promise contained in the 2013 electoral manifesto:

“The Environment and Resources Authority… will focus more specifically on the conservation, protection and amelioration of the environment and resources while undertaking also the responsibility of the important role of an environmental regulator, which presently our country does not have.”

A visit to Buskett where this EU Natura 2000 site is being endangered by EU funds, shows not only how an environmental regulator did never exist in the past, but also how the present one is working diametrically opposite to what has been promised and contrary to national and international obligations. Not only is it not functioning, but it is officially involved in such ecological damage.

Have we reached a stage where the destruction of the environment and the ecosystem has achieved virtual academic qualifications?

The minister has gone on record as saying that he has a “sound environmental policy”. Buskett Natura 2000 site, shows the lack of a will to protect biodiversity, as promised, all the result of such a “sound environmental policy”.

 

The result of the ‘sound environmental policy’ with which some are very proud.  Seeing all the above official ecological damage, this is the best diplomacy I could manage. And I am sure there are many others who feel the way I do.

Alfred Baldacchino is a former assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

see also:

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/another-buskett-onslaught/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/buskett-%e2%80%93-a-special-area-of-conservation-in-the-eu/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/il-buskett/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/trees-butchered-at-university/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/a-cash-cow-in-the-ditch/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/the-garden-at-mdina-ditch-officially-inaugurated/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/qerda-tal-biodiversita-fil-foss-tal-imdina-biex-isir-gnien-ta-kwalita/


From a bird’s eye view

October 5, 2016

times of malta

Wednesday, 5th October, 2016

From a bird’s eye view  

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Kurt Sansone’s contribution (September 22), illustrated with bird photos taken by hunters, was a very pleasant surprise. It is of great satisfaction to me. Indeed, another bold step towards the better future of a country which has a reputation for the killing of birds. One cannot but congratulate and encourage these efforts.

marcus-camilleri-squacco-02-04-16

What I cannot understand is the amount of ‘fear’ shown about such photos, or rather about the photographers. Without any difficulty one can perhaps understand the criticism from that lone man-with-the-gun who is more accustomed to gunning down protected birds.

But disappointing is the deafening silence from the other side of the fence. Disappointing, because these hunters’ photos, and comments on the social media, contribute towards the positive appreciation, education, and scientific study of birds. Photos of living birds in their natural environment, unharmed, and most important, flying free. What more can one wish for?

I am not saying that obscenities like butchered storks, honey buzzards, and other protected birds should not be condemned without any reservations.

I remember during my active years campaigning for the better protection of birds – an aim I still cherish and still contributing to – when one September afternoon, I went bird-watching at Buskett, a bird sanctuary. It was overcast with a slight drizzle. Migrating birds of prey were approaching Buskett in large numbers, all trying to roost because the inclement weather did not allow them to continue with their journey to Africa.

But, within half an hour, 40 dead honey buzzards tumbled down into the woods below. One honey buzzard was seen circling down, wing detached from body – shot with a chained-pellet. Not a sight to easily forget.

During those bad times bird watchers ended with a fractured heads, smashed equipment, and broken ribs. This was years ago. Nothing compared to today’s photos by bird hunters from the same Buskett, mingling with bird watchers enjoying the miracles of nature.

honey-buzzard-aron-tanti

Such positive photographic appreciation is in line with the same aims for which a society was founded in the 1960s. Today, one can see watchers and hunters alike, all clicking to their hearts’ delight and taking pictures not lives. Everyone should be pleased and proud that past efforts are bearing fruit. One does not have to belong to any group to achieve this.

It is not important who the photographer is. The aim is more important than the image. As long as birds remain unharmed, it is not important who pulls the trigger. If it is a good photo, it is a good photo, whether it is from one side of the fence or from the other.

Such photographers should be encouraged, their work appreciated, and their efforts and knowledge in the field shared with others. Congratulations are due to those who are finding fulfillment, appreciation and interest in shooting birds with a camera. I wish them the best of luck and the best of opportunities to carry on shooting with a camera and sharing their photos, so that they can be appreciated by one and all.

The hunters’ photos, and comments on the social media, contribute towards the positive appreciation, education, and scientific study of birds

Without doubt another positive gigantic step towards bird protection. It might not please everyone, but it certainly suits and pleases birds and the photographers in question. Birds seem to be reciprocating by flying past sometimes closer than it was ever thought possible, unless there is a raving party to upset such a positive step. What a thrill, and what a dream come true.

Black-winged stilts - marcus camilleri

 

German sociologist and political scientist Robert Michels contends that once an organisation engages full-time employees, there arises differences between the general members and their leaders. The presence of specialised personnel creates a dominant elite, and though the role of this elite is to present the view and aspirations of the mass membership, who own the organisation, the gap between these two gets wider and wider.

In such circumstances the leaders tend to be more interested in keeping their position of prestige and influence that goes with their position. The interest of the members is no longer represented, and the organisation with a bureaucratic structure is operated in the interest of preservation of the bureaucracy, which accommodates the elite.

Can this be the basis for such ‘fears’ from the elite on both sides of the fence? Could be not. But it is high time that credit is given where credit is due, by conservationists on both sides of the fence. It may not be easy for some, but if it is in line with the official approved aims of conservation, then what is the problem?

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

Alfred Baldacchino served as assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

See also

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/another-buskett-onslaught/


Another Buskett onslaught

September 15, 2016

times-of-malta

Another Buskett onslaught

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Buskett is one of the few remaining rich ecological areas. It is a tree protection area. It is also a bird protection area: birds of prey migrating in both spring and autumn and for other migrating, wintering and resident species.

Buskett supports eight different habitat types of EU Community interest, whose conservation requires the designation of special areas of conservation (SAC). It also supports six different species of fauna (besides birds) and plant species of EU Community interest, whose conservation also demands the SAC designation.

At Buskett, there are 32 bird species recorded, all qualifying for special EU conservation measures with regard to their habitat to ensure their survival and reproduction in their area of distribution. Because of this, Buskett is a special protection area (SPA).

Buskett is thus both an SPA and an SAC, making the place an EU Natura 2000 site. These are designed to afford protection to the most vulnerable species in Europe.

buskett

BUSKETT – an SPA, an SAC – and an EU NATURA 2000 site.

Within six years, at most, from the designation of a Natura 2000 site (from 2004, in our case), member states are obliged to establish priorities in the light of the importance of the sites for the maintenance or restoration, at a favourable conservation status, of a natural habitat type or a species for the coherence of Natura 2000 and in the light of the threats of degradation or destruction to which those sites are exposed.

 

Since EU accession in 2004, the environment has never been
so much neglected, abused and exploited as it is today
 
The priority that has officially materialised so far is a rave party in the midst of this Natura 2000 site during a sensitive migration  for birds of prey. This despite the fact that EU funds were acquired for the rehabilitation of Buskett’s environment.

Any plan or project not directly connected with or necessary to the management of the site but likely to have a significant effect thereon, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects, shall be subject to appropriate assessment of its implications for the site in view of its conservation objectives.

The competent national authority (the Environment and Resources Authority) has to agree to the plan or project only after having ascertained that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the site concerned and after having obtained the opinion of the public.

By December 2015, management plans for Malta’s Natura 2000 sites were ready and approved by the government after a public consultation exercise. However, Buskett is still under tremendous pressure and disturbance.

Highlighted negative impacts on this Natura 2000 site, according to the management plan, are noise and light pollution resulting in disturbance. Noise was attributed to large groups of people, unnecessary shouting and also the use of megaphones.

Light pollution was also referred to from a transient source, such as from a passing vehicle or from adjacent areas.

The management plan confirmed that “all these result in considerable disturbance to wildlife”.

The plan also recommends that the range, population size, roosting habitat and future prospects of migratory raptors are to be maintained; the future prospects of breeding and wintering passerines are to be improved.

buskett-kuccarda-bghadam-wrdpress-2

Buskett is a Special Protection Area (SPA) declared under the EU Bird Directive because of its importance for migratory birds of prey.

It further recommends that Buskett should receive full legal protection implemented according to national legislation and local polices. With regard to birds, one of the main objectives is to maintain its high ornithological value. These are all in line with obligations arising out of the EU environmental acquis, which have been transposed to local legislation.

The Minister for the Environment and his ERA seem to be yet oblivious to what has hit them. They failed terribly at their first hurdle, which seemingly was a bit too high for them. Now they seem to have been mesmerised by this rave party, which took place on September 7 in the midst of Buskett. This should never have been given a permit to be held –  unless, of course, it was held without any permit, which would still be of ERA’s concern.

 

2016-09-08-black-kitss-marcus-camilleri-wordpress-photo-3

One of the largest flocks of Black Kites congregating over Buskett EU Natura 2000 site on the 7th September 2016, waiting to roost in the trees, on the same day the rave party was held.

The minister and his ERA are intelligent enough, I believe, to see that such a rave party is diametrically opposed to the EU Natura 2000 obligations, especially in a sensitively bird of prey migratory period. Even genuine bird hunters and bird conservationists (who, in the recent past, have never seen eye to eye) have come out in force against such disturbances to this Natura 2000 site.

malta-taghna-lkoll“The Environment and Resources Authority… will focus more specifically on the conservation, protection and amelioration of the environment and resources while undertaking also the responsibility of the important role of an environmental regulator, which presently our country does not have.” So were the people promised in the Malta Tagħna Ikoll electoral manifesto in 2013.

But the people are still waiting for this promise to be realised and the responsibility of the environmental regulator (“which our country does not have”) to be effective.

Not only has Malta not become the “best in Europe”, as also promised, but, since accession to the EU in 2004, the environment has never been so much neglected, abused and exploited as it is today.

Alfred Baldacchino is a former assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 

Honey Buzzard – Pernis apivoris  – il-kuċċarda
Black Kite – Milvus migrans – l-astun iswed
Marsh Harrier – Circus aeruginosus – il-bagħdan aħmar

 

photos-of-buskett

A photo of Buskett an EU Natura 2000 site, taken on 12th September 2016. For the attentino of ERA,  the promised environmental regulator.

See also

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/buskett-%e2%80%93-a-special-area-of-conservation-in-the-eu/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/il-buskett/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/the-eu-habitats-directive/

 

 

 


L-GĦARGĦAR: is-sigra nazzjonali

November 16, 2015

book-cover-2

2015

L-GĦARGĦAR: is-sigra nazzjonali

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Is-siġra tal-għargħar darba kienet komuni ħafna fil-gżejjer Maltin. Din kienet tiksi wesgħat kbar f’Birkirkara u fl-inħawi ta’ madwarha. Hemm inħawi li huma maħsuba li kienu msemmijin għal din is-siġra, bħal San Ġwann tal-Għargħar u Ħal-Għarghur. Iżda hawn minn jgħid li l-Għargħur, kif jixhdu mappi qodma, hu mnissel mill-isem Girgor. Mhux dokumentat li din is-siġra kienet tikber fis-selvaġġ la f’Għawdex u lanqas f’Kemmuna, għalkemm illum jinstabu xi siġar żgħar li ġew imħawwla mill-bniedem f’dawn iż-­żewġ gżejjer.

1 - Siġra tal-għargħar li tinstab San Anton

 Waħda miż-żewġ siġriet tal-għargħar li jikbru f’San Anton

L-għargħar hija siġra mill-­familja taċ-ċipress. Din ma tinstabx biss fil-gżejjer Maltin, għax fl­-Ewropa tikber f’roqgħa żgħira fix­-xlokk ta’ Spanja viċin Kartagena, fir-­reġjun ta’ Mursja. Hemm indikazzjonijiet li fl-imgħoddi din is-sigra kienet aktar komuni fl-Ewropa u nqerdet għalkollox ħlief f’dik ir­-roqgħa fi Spanja u fil-gżejjer Maltin. Dan jirriżulta minn numru ta’ fossili ta’ din is-sigra li nstabu fi Franza.

Illum hija aktar komuni u mifruxa fil-Magreb, bħal fil-Marokk fuq il-kosta tal-Atlantiku, fl-Algerija u f’Tunes. Mhemmx provi li din is-sigra tikber fil-Libja għalkemm huwa rrappurtat li din tikber hemm ukoll.

Fil-gżejjer Maltin illum hija meqjusa bħala siġra rari ħafna u tikber fis-selvaġġ f’xi ħames postijiet, fosthom l-aktar magħrufa huma fil­-Maqluba, viċin il-Qrendi fejn hemm xi tliet siġriet, fl-inhawi tal­-Mellieħa, il-Mosta, u fl-Imġiebah viċin Selmun. F’uħud minn dawn l-inħawi tikber siġra waħda biss.

gharghar-3

Il-prinjoli tal-għargħar għadhom ma sarux.

Oħrajn kienu jikbru f’Wied Filep, li kien fergħa minn Wied il-Għasel. Dawn inqerdu minn barriera tal-­qawwi li ħadet il-blat kollu għaż-żrar. Hemm għargħar oħra li ġew imħawla mill-bniedem. Fost dawn insibu tnejn fil-ġonna ta’ San Anton u oħra fil-ġonna privati tal-President ta’ Malta.

Huwa maħsub li dawn tkabbru minn żerriegħa li ttieħdet mis-siġar tal­-Maqluba. Siġar oħra nsibuhom il-­Mall u l-Argotti fil-Furjana, tnejn fil­-ġnien San Filep, biswit l-Argotti, tnejn iżgħar oħra fil-Ġnien tal-Milorda Sa Maison, tlieta oħra fil-Buskett, daqs nofs tużżana oħra fil-ġonna tal-Università f’tal-Qroqq, u waħda l-Marsa.

Is-siġra tal-għargħar tħaddar is-sena kollha u tiflaħ għan-nixfa. Hija tikber fil-makkja tal-Mediterran, għalkemm ġieli tikber fi xquq fil-blat u f’wesgħat bi blat b’pendil. Din tilħaq għoli ta’ madwar 15-il metru, fuq zokk kanella ħamrani, u togħla għall-ponta għalkemm mifruxa fil-­baxx.

gharghar-4

Il-weraq tas-siġra tal-għargħar.

Meta jkunu għadhom qed jifformaw iz-zkuk ewlenin li fuqhom is-siġra tal-għargħar tkun mibnija, dawn ikunu mgħottija bil-weraq. Il-weraq ta’ din is-siġra huma rqaq bħal tal-koniferi l­-oħra, twal bejn  1 mm sa 8 mm u wesgħin minn madwar 1 mm sa 1.5 mm. Huma għandhom leħħa fl-ikħal. L-aktar friegħi żgħar ikunu ċatti. Il-­weraq huma żgħar u ċatti u jikbru f’pari imsallbin fuq xulxin, aktar qrib xulxin lejn il-ponta tal-magħseb, qishom bukkett ta’ erba’ madwar il-­magħseb. Il­-friegħi ċatti u fini jkunu miksija b’dan il­-weraq li jkollhom qisa għatja ta’ qxur, l-­iżjed minn fejn jaqbdu mal­-magħseb.

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Il-prinjoli tas-siġra tal-għargħar miftuħa meta ż-żerriegħa tkun taret.

Għall-ħabta ta’ Novembru u Diċembru, xi minn daqqiet ukoll qabel, jibda jidher il-weraq speċjalizzat. Dan ikun weraq raġel jew weraq mara, iżda t-tnejn li huma jikbru fuq l-istess siġra. Ġo dan il-weraq speċjalizzat raġel ikun hemm l-għabra tad-dakra. Dawn ifarfru din l-għabra tad-dakkra għall-habta ta’ Settembru sa Diċembru, u b’hekk idakkru l-weraq speċjalizzati nisa li jifformaw il-frott li jissejjah prinjol. Kull frotta tas-siġra tal-għargħar tkun għaliha, waħda fit-tarf tal-ponot tal-friegħi. Din il-prinjol żgħir ikun tond u bejn 8 sa 12-il millimetru u jkun mibni minn erbat iqxur trijangulari tal-­injam. lż-żerriegħa li tkun ġo fih għandha par ġwienah wesgħin, qishom tal-karta, biex ikunu jistgħu jitferrxu bir-riħ bla tbatija.

Mis-siġra tal-għargħar toħroġ qisa gomma li bl-Ingliż tissejjah sandarac gum. Huwa għalhekk li wieħed mill-ismijiet tas-siġra bl’Ingliż huwa sandarac gum tree, għalkemm l-ismijiet l-aktar użati bl-­Ingliż huma arar tree jew alerce. Il­-kelma għargħar ġejja mill-­isem Għarbi tas-­siġra, araar.

Din il-gomma għandha numru ta’ użi fl-industrija. Jingħad ukoll li tintuża kontra t-taħsir tas-snin billi tingħorok fuqhom. Ġieli ntużat ukoll minflok il-balzmu tal-Kanada fil-tħejjija ta’ ħġieġ għall-mikroskopju.

L-injam tal­-għargħar bl-ingliż jissejjah citron wood u għalhekk xi mindaqqiet din is-siġra bl-Ingliż tissejjah ukoll citron wood tree. Il-kelma citron ġejja mit-Taljan citro jew aktarx cedro. Dan l-injam huwa mfittex ħafna għal xogħol fin fl-injam.

Ir-Rumani kienu jfittxu ħafna dan l-injam biex jużawh bħala materjal għall-bini.

Bħas-siġar koniferi oħra, l-għargħar tiflaħ ħafna għan-nixfa, kif ukoll kapaċi tikber qrib ix-xatt għax tiflaħ ukoll għal ammont ta’ melħ. Dan jagħmilha siġra adattata ħafna biex biha nħaddru wesgħat b’pendil fil-blat li għandna fil-gżejjer Maltin.

Minkejja li l-għargħar tinħaraq mill-ewwel, ma tinqeridx malajr għax wara l-ħruq dlonk terġa’ ttella’ friegħi oħra minn taħt l-art.

Fis-16 ta’ Jannar tal-1992 l­-għargħar ġiet iddikjarata s-siġra nazzjonali. Ġiet imħarsa bil-liġi b’Avviż Legali Numru 49 tal-1993. Hija wkoll meqjusa bħala siġra mhedda u b’firxa żgħira fil-gżejjer Maltin, imniżżla wkoll fil-ktieb l-aħmar tal-gżejjer Maltin (Red Data Book) bħala siġra mhedda u li għandha firxa żgħira fil-Mediterran.

L-għargħar hija waħda mis-siġar imniżżla fi skeda I tar-regolamenti tal-ħarsien tas-siġar u l-imsaġar li ġew ippubblikati f’Avviżi Legali 200 tal-24 ta’ Mejju, 2011.

Minħabba li s-­siġra tal­-għargħar mhix komuni, u hekk l-­ambjent naturali tagħha ma għandux stat ta’ ħarsien tajjeb, kif ukoll il-­firxa tagħha hija dejqa, dan it-­tip ta’ ambjent huwa meqjus bħala ambjent ta’ priorità mill­-Unjoni Ewropea. Dan wassal biex fejn hemm siġar tal­-għargħar jikbru fis-selvaġġ fil-­gżejjer Maltin, dawn ġew dikjarati bħala Żoni Speċjali ta’ Konservazzjoni.

Hija mnissla wkoll fil-lista tal-Kunsill tal-Ewropa li jinkludu pjanti rari, mhedda, u endemiċi tal-Ewropa. Hija tidher ukoll bħala siġra mhedda, fil-lista ppublikata fl-1997 mill-Għaqda Internazzjonali tal-Ħarsien tan-Natura (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

L-għargħar hija siġra li tista’ ssebbah ’il-pajjiina, kemm bi msaġar li hija tista’ tinseġ, kif ukoll bil­-preżenza tagħha fl-irħula u l-ibliet tagħna. Hija siġra maħluqa għall-klima Mediterranja, kif ukoll għall-karatteristiċi tal-ambjent Malti.

Minn mindu ġiet magħrufa bħala s­-siġra nazzjonali, bdiet titħawwel f’numru ta’ postijiet oħra, l-­aktar fl­-iskejjel, u llum hija mferrxa mhux ħażin. Numru minn din is-siġra ġew imħawwla f’Wied Għollieqa. Wieħed jieħu gost jara li qed tintuża aktar u titħawwel aktar biex issebbaħ ’il-pajjiżna. Hija ħafna faċli li titnissel minn żerriegħa meħuda minn siġar Maltin kif jafu sewwa t-tfal tal-iskola, anki dawk primarji, li jkabbruha kull sena.

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Iż-żerriegħa tal-għargħar li tkun moħbija fil-prinjoli.

L-għargħar mhix siġra diffiċli biex titnissel, Iż-żerriegħa tinstab fil-prinjoli żgħar li għandhom jiġu miġbura matul Settembru sa kmieni f’Ottubru. Meta ż-­żerriegħa tinħareġ mill­-prinjol għandha titqiegħed fix-xemx għal xi ġimgħatejn. Iż-żerriegħa għandha tinżera f’Marzu f’ħamrija li tkun imqalba tajjeb biex fiha tiġbor l-arja. Iż-żerriegħa tħobb postijiet niexfa. Metodu li jgħin fit-tnissil tas-siġra tal-għargħar hija li l-borża li fiha tkun miżrugha titqiegħed kemmxejn fuq ġenbha biex b’hekk tgħin ħalli l-ilma joskula ’l barra.

Sfortunatament, dawk li jaraw biss qligħ kummerċjali, jimpurtaw din is-siġra minn barra minn Malta, kif wieħed jista’ jara’ fit-triq Diċembru 13. Minbarra li dawn is-siġar jistgħu jdaħħlu magħhom mard u speċi oħra barranin li jagħmlu ħsara lill-ambejnt Malti, kif fil-fatt ġara meta ġew importati xi siġar oħra, siġar tal-għarghar importati jniġġsu l-għaġna ġenetika tal-popolazzjoni tas-siġra tal-għargħar Maltija.

Hemm ħafna aktar bżonn ta’ tagħrif u edukazzjoni biex l-apprezzament tas-siġar jiżdied.

Isem Malti: Għargħar

Isem Ingliż: Sandarac Gum Tree

Isem xjentifiku: Tetraclinis articulata

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 


From nature study to biodiversity

July 9, 2013

times

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

From nature study to biodiversity

 Alfred E. Baldacchino

When we were young, we used to be taught nature study: by collecting tadpoles in jam jars and pinning butterflies on pieces of cork. Eventually, this changed to a wider vision of environmental studies. Following accession to international conventions and the European Union, a more sophisticated word is used: biodiversity.

Biodiversity is the amalgamation of the words biology and diversity. It means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part.

All living organisms (biotic) need adequate physical environment (abiotic) such as land, air, light and water to live and procreate. Biotic and abiotic form a delicate dynamic balance sustaining all life: the complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit. Such diversity within and between species and ecosystems essentially is a synonym of ‘life on earth’.

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Graphic image of biodiversity

Another principle related to biodiversity is its sustainable use: the use of components of biological diversity in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term decline of biological diversity, thereby maintaining its potential to meet the needs and the aspirations of present and future generations. It has ecological, economic and social dimensions.

The reconciliation of environmental, social equity and economic demands are referred to as the ‘three pillars’ – if ‘pillars’ are anything to go by locally.

Human_Sustainability_Confluence_Diagram

The three pillars of sustainability

Such a concept of life on earth is not always accepted by some sections of the self-proclaimed most intelligent species on earth, – homo sapiens, maintaining that such an intelligent species cannot be subject to such a natural system. Such ‘sceptics’ are mostly found among commercial, political and even religious entities.

Senior citizens remember days when we used to drink out of any streamlet or cistern without any fear or health worries. There was no acute asthma or coughing problems that have become so common and are normal background sounds to any public gathering.

Summer was warm months; winter was cold months and there was never any thought of sudden climate change and its impact on living organisms.

Occasionally, I try to image the modern way of life in the biblical Garden of Eden. Not only would the self-declared most intelligent species swoop on the forbidden fruit, some with the sole intent of genetically modifying it to make it better and feed the people, but the slightest vision of a Eurodollar-clad serpent would create a stampede to approach and eventually take possession of the fruit, uproot the tree and replace it by an investment yielding  maximum financial profits.

The early 1970s saw a crescendo of local waves of publicwide communication, education and public awareness on specific species, initially birds and later trees. Such was the impact that it led some politicians, past and present, to conclude that there were those who thought the environment was just development, birds or trees. I have heard this more than once from different coloured quarters.

A couple of days ago,a group of ecoskola students were convened in Parliament, where they also addressed members of the House of Representatives. Their message relating to ‘caring for our future’ focused mainly on fostering further awareness on the importance of environmentally sustainable policy.

Some politicians, the world over, have managed to coin their own ‘political’ definition of technical words, not necessary in the context or in line with scientific jargon. The latest political definition of sustainability is sometimes development has the upper hand, while sometimes the environment does. If this definition was applied to a football league, it would perhaps be close to acceptance. But applying this to sustainable use of biodiversity qualifies it for the best political joke of the year. It simply means sustainable use of biodiversity is far from being understood and biodiversity is on the development chopping board.

Malta is party to the Convention on Biological Diversity and also forms part of the European Union. Ignoring and failing to understand and implement such concepts of biodiversity can never place any country high up in EU rankings: it can only place it on top of the infraction list.

During the past decade, biodiversity has been the Cinderella of government, misunderstood and mismanaged even by the competent authority established for its very protection: Mepa.

A brief, backward look at Buskett, Dwejra and RamlaBay in ecoGozo, and Għajn Tuffieħa, all EU Natura 2000 sites, shows the disinterest and laissez-faire towards biodiversity.

Such lack of interest, the newly coined political definitions, the splash of fireworks to make us different, extinguish any hopeful light at the end of the tunnel for the better management, protection, enforcement and appreciation of Maltese biodiversity.

The national and international obligations for the protection of biodiversity go much further than just protecting birds or trees from development.

But if schoolchildren can understand and embrace the real meaning of biodiversity, why can’t politicians? After all politicians are intelligent and honourable men, unless they themselves disagree with such public perception.