Valley – check with likes

January 23, 2019

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Alfred E Baldacchino

The news of the restoration of Wied il-Qlejgħa, alias Chadwick lakes, is good news. Not least because the ‘cleaning of valleys’ has been put to bed.

The largest dam at Wied il-Qlejgħa in all its glory

The measures highlighted in the media for such restoration are also something to look forward to, namely: restoration of dilapidated rubble walls; removal of the playing area; removal of invasive alien species of flora and fauna; removal of accumulated sediment behind dams; restoration and utilisation of the Fiddien pumping station; and the planning of walking trails.

Dilapidated rubble walls – not an uncommon site after some heavy rainfall

Valleys in the Maltese islands are a sensitive ecological areas – much ignored, unappreciated and abused. These have been abandoned and mismanaged for years, making their restoration more delicate. They are dried river beds, once adorned with dwarf hippopotamus and endemic swan. Climate change reduced these rich fresh water habitats to what they are today.

30+ year old gabbjuni still uncolonised by indigenous flora.


Dilapidated rubble walls is the first item that should be addressed, thus stopping soil erosion, one of the main culprits for the filling up of the dams.

The use of gabbjuni (big cages) to repair/replace rubble walls should not even be considered. A look at the 30-year-old gabbjuni installed along the valley, shows how barren they are. Not even the tenacious invasive cape sorell (l-ingliża) has managed to colonise any of them.

The play area in the midst of willow trees. Now who would have thought of this?

The removal of the playing area in the midst of the valley is a sine qua non. I wonder who was the architect who conceived this idea in the middle of one of the largest valley in the Maltese Islands!

Alien invasive eucalyptus trees dominate the valley. One might have to tread careful here because these can be protected by the latest tree protection regulations issued by ERA.

The removal of invasive alien species of flora and  fauna is another step in the right direction.

No need to say that this is a sensitive and delicate endeavour. It is not just bulldozing them on the lines of how the Ministry of Transport bulldozes trees. The invasive species of flora have to be gradually removed  in some areas, while being replaced by indigenous species.

Invasive species growing in Wied il-Qlejgħa include: she oak (less than a dozen), castor oil trees (less than 100), acacias and eucalyptus (more than a score and twenty of each species).

Their removal has to be professional so as not to contribute further to their dispersal. This applies mainly to the castor oil tree which has to be uprooted, and burned on site thus eliminating the possibility of giving it a free ride and opportunity to its seeds to germinate on new reclaimed grounds.

Furthermore, indigenous species which grow in the valley, such as poplar trees, willows, almond trees, lentisks, olive trees, chaste trees,  should not be mistaken for invasive species and removed. Not a far-fetched concern.

The removal of invasive alien species of flora and fauna is another step in the right direction. No need to say that this is a sensitive and delicate endeavour

On the other hand, the notorious lately introduced red swamp crayfish also abounds in the valley, detrimental to any fresh aquatic life such as indigenous painted frog and its tadpole, dragonflies and water beetles larvae. The person who introduced such alien species, should be chained to a poplar tree until the last crayfish is collected.

The indigenous poplar tree – adorns its natural habitat. No it is not dead.

On the other hand indigenous trees adapted to such a riverine habitat include the poplar tree, already established in the valley, willow (two species also established), chaste tree (of which there is half a dozen) and rare species of ash and elm.

AmbjentMalta can start propagating them immediately so that they will be readily available for planting as standard trees as soon as a parcel of the valley has been restored.

There are also a number of indigenous flora, some  rare and scarce aquatic species, such as water cress, sanicle-leaved water crowfoot, and bulbous buttercup. Others not so rare are greater plantain, creeping cinquefoil, rushes and sedges.

Rare and scarce aquatic plants whose seeds aestivate in the sediment. (Photos by Stephen Mifsud).


Another delicate exercise is the removal of debris, and sediment accumulated behind the two main water dams. Presumably, one would think, this would be undertaken during the hot summer months when the cisterns are dry. This means that the top layer of the sediment will be full of seeds and ova of species frequenting the aquatic habitat. The collecting of approximately 15 cm of scraped surface sediment to be redeposited in the restored parts, would contribute to the survival of these rare species.

motor bike tracks in the main footpaths 

The valley bottom is constantly being abused by off-roading motorbikes as one can see from the erosion of footpaths and fresh tyre marks.

One of the shallow dams closest to Fiddien has also been damaged to make easier access.

Modern environment friendly public access gate

So the suggestions for walking trails is another positive approach, especially if these are somewhat raised from the ground, for the convenience of wild fauna.

Furthermore, public access gates can be installed along the way, as a measure for controlling bikes – motor or manual.

I know that if Dr Daniel Micallef, one of the few politicians with environment at heart, could see this, I am sure he would send some people to hell.

The Fiddien box, which was restored during the time when Daniel Micallef was Minister for Education and Environment, has long been vandalised and the heavy water pump has seemingly disappeared – hopefully taken by the Water Services Corporation for safe keeping?

The plans for their restoration and educational use is also another positive step.

The second dam, needing some structural repairs, still contributes its best for the storage of water, before it passes it to Wied tal-Isperanza.

Once restoration works are completed, the valley has to be monitored and managed. Traffic management tops the list.

This will ensure that the number of vehicles frequently jamming the area on public holidays and Sundays will not bring such restoration to naught by their haphazard parking. So it would be beneficial to one and all if the road through the valley is made one way: from Imtarfa to Mosta.

The farming community can have an identification permit displayed on car windscreens, to allow them to use it both ways during working days.

The proof of this EU funded pudding is in the eating.

I will be watching grastis et amoris patria, naturally.

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

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

related articles on this blog:

Jappella biex Chadwick lakes jigi mmaniġġat aħjar

In-nixfa tax-xitwa u s-siġra tal-lewż




Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 8 – Il-Kaħwiela

August 16, 2016

logoSoċjetà Filarmonika Nicolò Isouard – Festa Santa Marija Mosta – Awwissu 2016    

Il-kaħwiela – Anemone coronaria – Crown Anemone

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Fuq ir-riħ tal-Wied tal-Isperanza nsibu Triq il-Kaħwiela. Isem ta’ fjura li ta’ min inkunu nafu ftit aktar fuqha.

Il-kaħwiela hija fjura li tikber fis-selvaġġ madwar il-Mediterran. Tinstab tikber ukoll f’pajjiżna għaliex hija fjura Maltija. Fjura indiġena għal Malta, jiġifieri minn dejjem kienet tikber fil-gżejjer Maltin u ma nġabetx hawn mill-bniedem. Din l-ispeċi tagħmel parti mill-familja taċ-ċfolloq (buttercups)  u tinstab fil-grupp (genus)  tal-Anemone.

L-ispeċi ta’ fjuri f’dan il-grupp għandhom basla tonda li tkun midfuna mhux fil-fond taħt wiċċ il-ħamrija. Din il-basla tagħmel il-kaħwiela pjanta perenni, jiġifieri tgħix għal aktar minn sentejn. F’pajjiżna twarrad minn Jannar sa Marzu. Imbagħad torqod matul ix-xhur tas-sajf, u kif tħoss l-ewwel xita fil-ħarifa, mill-basla jfeġġgħu u jikbru l-weraq.

Anemone_Coronaria 2Il-weraq jikbru fuq magħseb twil u x-xifer tagħhom ikunu maqtugħ forma ta’ swaba’. Il-magħseb tal-fjura wkoll jikber mill-basla. Dan joħroġ minn taħt l-art mgħawweg bħal ganċ, imma aktar ma jitwal aktar jiddritta. Tard fix-xitwa jiftħu l-fjuri mill-buttun tal-weraq, fuq magħseb twil mingħajr weraq, iżda muswaf.

Il-fjura tal-kaħwiela jkollha bejn ħamsa sa sitt petali, b’diametru ta’ bejn 3 sa 8 ċm. Dawn jistgħu jkunu jew ħomor, bojod jew koħol. Huma jkunu mwieżna fuq it-tliet werqiet modifikati li bihom ikun magħmul il-buttun. Il-kaħwiela togħla minn 15 sa 45 ċm.

F’nofs il-fjura nsibu għenuq irqaq li fit-tarf tagħhom ikollhom il-boroż żgħar bil-għabra tad-dakra, kif ukoll il-partijiet li jkollhom l-ovarji bil-bajd. Dawn ikunu blu metalliku skur, jidhru suwed, li jiġbdu lejhom l-insetti, fosthom naħal, li jdakkru l-fjura. Ta’ spiss wieħed jista’ jara xi ħanfus fil-fjura tal-kaħwiela.

Anemone_Coronaria 3Din hija pjanta li tagħmel iż-żerriegħa li tkun magħluqa ġo frotta b’qoxra ħoxna. Għalhekk din l-ispeċi hija Angiosperma, kelma Griega li tfisser żerriegħa li tkun magħluqa b’għatja. Il-kaħwiela tagħmel numru kbir ta’ żerriegħa li jkollhom troffof ta’ xagħar fin biex jgħinhom jinfirxu u jissiefħu ’l bogħod bir-riħ.

Il-kelma Anemone hija kelma Griega li tfisser maħbuba mar-riħ. Skont in-naturalisti Rumani Pliny u Elder, il-kaħwiela tiftaħ biss meta jkun ir-riħ U forsi għalhekk il-ħajja tal-fjura ma tantx hija waħda twila.

Il-botanista Grieg Dioscorides, jgħid li l-kaħwiela tintuża għall-għanijiet mediċinali. Huwa jikteb li meta l-meraq tal-għeruq tal-kaħwiela jintgħasru fl-imnifsejn, dan inaddaf ir-ras. U meta l-għeruq jintgħomdu jnaddfu il-mogħdijiet tan-nifs mill-maħta.

Jgħid ukoll li meta l-għeruq tal-kaħwiela jitgħarrqu fl-imbid, dan jgħin kontra l-infjammazzjoni u dwejjaq oħra fl-għajnejn. Barra minhekk, jgħid, li l-magħseb tal-weraq u l-weraq jintużaw biex jgħinu n-nisa li jkunu jreddgħu, u anki fit-tnixxija tad-demm tagħhom.

Anki Plinju l-Ikbar jikteb li l-anemone tista’ wkoll tintuza kontra d-deni, imma l-fjura trid tinġabar hekk kif tidher waqt li jitlissen kliem meqjus. Din tinżamm imġeżwra f’ċaruta ħamra u tinżamm fid-dell, biex tkun lesta biex titpoġġa fuq dak li jkollu d-deni. Tant li fl-Ewropa, fiż-żminijiet tan-nofs, kienet titpoġġa kuruna magħmula mill-fjuri tal-kaħwiela madwar l-għonq tal-persuna marida, għax kien maħsub li din tgħin biex tniżżel id-deni.

Anemone_Coronaria 1Fit-twemmin u tradizzjonijiet tal-Griegi tal-qedem, kien maħsub li l-kaħwiela kellha rabta mal-imħabba ta’ Venere ma’ Adonis. Skont il-mitoloġija Griega, Adonis inqatel minn ħanżir selvaġġ waqt li kien għall-kaċċa tiegħu. Meta Venere ratu mixħut fuq ir-ramel f’għadira demm, ferxet ftit għasel ifuħ fuq id-demm tiegħu u minnu kibret il-fjura kaħwiela!

Fil-gżejjer Maltin il-kaħwiela nsibuha tikber kemm fl-għelieqi maħduma, fl-għelieqi mitluqa, u anki qrib il-widien. Mhux daqshekk rari, u nstabet tikber, fost oħrajn, f’Wied id-Dis, il-Għargħur, il-Buskett, il-Wied ta’ Kandja u Wied Qirda. F’Għawdedx tista’ tinstab ukoll fix-Xagħra, Marsalforn u d-Dabrani, kif ukoll Kemmuna.

U t-triq fil-Mosta hija msemmija għal din il-fjura.

Ara wkoll:

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 7 – Is-Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 6 – Għajn is-serduq

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 5 – It-Tengħud tax-Xagħri

Fjuri indigeni Maltin 4 – It-tengħud tas-siġra

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 3 – Il-Kappara

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 2 – Il-Kromb Il-baħar

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 1 – Il-Ħannewija