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




Wied il-Għasel

August 15, 2017

Soċjetà Filarmonika Nicolò Isouard – Festa Santa Marija Mosta

it-Tlieta, 15 ta’ Awwissu, 2017

Wied il-Għasel

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Wied il-Għasel, li jdur mal-Mosta,  jagħmel parti minn katina ta’ widien oħra.

Il-fomm ta’ dan il-wied huwa Wied Liemu li jirċievi ammont kbir ta’ ilma mill-għoljiet fuq kull naħa tiegħu, jiġifieri dik ta’ Ħad-Dingli u dik tal-Imtaħleb. Billi fl-inħawi ta’ Wied Liemu hemm saff ta’ tafal, dan iżomm ħafna mill-ilma li jserraħ fuqu, u jifforma l-ilma tal-pjan ta’ fuq. Meta jfawwar, joħloq numru ta’ nixxigħat li l-inħawi huma magħrufa għalihom.

Meta tagħmel ħafna xita fl-inħawi, l-ilma jaqbad it-triq lejn artijiet aktar fil-baxx. Minn Wied Liemu jgħaddi mill-Fiddien, jaqbad ma’ Wied il-Qlejgħa, magħruf aktar bħala Chadwick Lakes, jerħila lejn Wied tal-Isperanza, jgħaddi minn Wied il-Għasel fi triqtu lejn is-Salina fejn iferra’  fil-baħar.

Hemm ukoll xi widien oħra iżgħar imma li xorta waħda jgħinu biex iferrgħu l-ilma tagħhom f’din il-medda ta’ widien ewlenin. Wied il-Bużbież; Wied Għomor u Wied Għemieri kollha jgħinu biex iwasslu l-ilma tagħhom sa Wied il-Qlejgħa, li minnu mbagħad jerħila għal Wied il-Għasel.

Din id-damma ta’ widien tlaħħaq madwar 14.4 kilometru. Hija t-tieni l-aktar medda ta’ widien li jilqgħu l-ilma tax-xita fil-gżejjer Maltin.

Jgħasses fuq Wied il-Għasel, fil-parti magħrufa bħala Dawret il-Wied, hemm, jew aħjar hemm, il-fdalijiet ta’ Wied Filep, li nbelgħa minn barriera tal-qawwi. Dan jixbaħ foss għoli u kważi dritt, riżultat ta’ ċaqliq tal-art. Fil-fdalijiet ta’ Wied Filep insibu numru żgħir tas-siġra nazzjonali, l-għargħar, li ilhom magħrufa minn dawn l-inħawi sa minn kmieni fis-seklu 20. Jista’ jgħati l-każ li dawn is-siġar tal-għargħar huma l-fdalijiet ta’ masġar ta’ dawn is-siġar maghrufa minn Wied Filep.

Dan wassal biex b’Avviż tal-Gvern numru 473 tal-24 ta’ Mejju tal-2011, Wied Filep ġie ddikjarat bħala Żona ta’ Siġar Imħarsa (Tree Protected Area) skont kif jipprovdu r-regolamenti tal-ħarsien tas-siġar u l-imsagar tal-2011.

Barra minn hekk, minħabba li Wied Filep huwa sinjur fil-flora indiġena Maltija, bħal ngħidu aħna t-tengħud tas-siġra, u s-salvja tal-Madonna li tinstab tikber fi rqajja fil-gżejjer Maltin, dawn l-inħawi huma meqjusa bħala inħawi ta’ valur għoli fil-biodiversità (Area of High Landsape Value) u ġew dikjarati bħala Riserva Naturali.

Is-salvja tal-Madonna – pjanta indiġena Maltija rari li wieħed jista’ jiltaqa’ magħha wkoll f’Wied il-Għasel.

Jingħad li f’Wied il-Għasel tant kien hemm numru kbir ta’ naħal li kienu jibnu x-xehda tagħhom fix-xquq fil-blat, li dawn kienu jagħmlu tant għasel li f’xi nħawi kien ifur u kien iqattar matul dan il-wied. Dan it-twemmin kien ta l-isem lill-kappella li nbient fl-1760. Huwa minn dan l-għijdut li dan il-Wied ha ismu.

Minbarra dan, fil-Wied il-Għasel insibu numru ta’ pjanti slavaġġ li huma wkoll komuni, bħal ngħidu aħna: iċ-ċfolloq, il-borgħom, il-buttuniera, il-ħaxixa tal-misk, il-ħobbejża tar-raba’, il-lellux, il-moxt, it-te Sqalli, ix-xewk tal-Madonna, iż-żebbuġija, l-għollieq, l-ispraġġ xewwieki u x-xewk abjad.

Pjanti slavaġġ oħra, li minkejja li ma humiex daqshekk komuni, imma huma frekwenti, huma: iċ-ċfolloq tal-ilma, il-ħobbejża tar-raba’, il-ħobbejża tal-warda kbira, il-margerita salvaġġa, il-qarsajja tal-ilma, in-narċis imwaħħar, is-siġret il-ħarir, it-tursin il-bir, l-erika, il-kalaminta, ix-xpakkapietra, u ż-żigland tal-għerq.

Saħansitra nsibu wkoll pjanti slavaġġ skarsi bħat-tursin ir-riħ, is-salvja tal-Madonna u l-kaħwiela, li tkellimna fuqha fil-ħarġa tas-sena l-oħra.

Il-ħobbejża tal-warda kbira – fjura selvaġġa frekwenti li tagħti sehmha biex isebbaħ Wied il-Għasel

Hemm ukoll pjanti rari ħafna bħall-brimba ta’ Sqallija, li nbelgħet mill-barriera, l-felċi tal-ħitan tas-sejjiegħ, il-ħaxixa tal-baħar tal-ħarifa u l-għansar tal-ġonna.

Insibu wkoll it-tulliera ta’ Malta, pjanta endemika Maltija, jiġifieri pjanta li tinstab tikber fil-ġżejjer Maltin biss.

Il-pjanta invażiva, dik tal-ħaxixa Ingliża li ddaħlet mill-Afrika t’Isfel, ukoll terfa’ rasha sewwa f’dan il-wied.

Il-kappella ta’ San Pawl l-eremita f’Wied il-Għasel.

Illum insibu żewġ kappelli matul dan il-wied. Dik tal-Isperanza fejn il-Wied tal-Isperanza jaqbad ma’ Wied il-Għasel. U dik ta’ San Pawl L-Eremita.

Kif wieħed jista’ jara Wied il-Għasel mhux biss huwa sinjur fil-biodiversità, imma anki fil-wirt storiku.

Bil-fjuri slavaġġ u anki dawk ta’ siġar tal-frott li llum huwa mżejjen bihom, dan joffri mergħat kbar fejn in-naħal jirgħu u jiġbru kemm l-għasel tal-fjuri, kif ukoll l-għabra tad-dakkra li huma jużaw biex jibnu x-xeħda u jagħmlu l-għasel. U fil-qedem kien hemm ħafna u ħafna aktar fjuri minn dawn li kienu jżejnu u jagħmlu l-mergħat aktar sinjuri. U b’dawn il-mergħat kollha fil-kenn ta’ Wied il-Għasel, ma setgħax jonqos li dan il-wied kien il-beniena tal-għasel li n-naħal kienu jaħdmu wara li jżuru l-fjuri. Wied il-Għasel, wied sinjur li ma tantx għarafna nieħdu ħsiebu biex ikomplu jsebbaħ u joffrilna ikel naturali u mediċinali.

Dan minbarra  n-numru ta’ fawna oħra bħall-ngħidu aħna friefett, rettili, għasafar u anki mammiferi li jgħammru f’dan il-wied.

Wied il-Għasel iħaddar anke fl-eqqel tas-sajf

Ma tkunx ħaġa tajba li kieku jsiru pjanijiet ta’ immanniġar biex dan il-wied jerġa jingħata l-għarfien tiegħu għal kemm kien sinjur u kemm għin lill-bniedem biex jitrejjaq, jerġa jibda jgħinna bil-kuluri tal-fjuri u tal-ħlejjaq oħra li jgħixu fih, u jerġa jibda jitma lilna bil-għasel li tant kien jgħati qabel. Kollox jiddependi minna.

 Speċi li jissemmew

Borgħom – Yellow Germander – Teucrium flavum
Brimba ta’ Sqallija – Beaked Spider Orchid – Ophrys oxyrrhynchos
Buttuniera – Sweet Alyssum – Lobularia maritima
Ċfolloq – Autumn Buttercup – Ranunculus bullatus
Erika – Mediterranean Heath – Erica muliflora
Felċi tal-ħitan tas-sejjieħ – Rusty-back Fern – Asplenium ceterach
Għansar tal-ġonna – Portugese Squill – Scilla peruviana
Għollieq – Bramble – Rubus ulmifolius
Ħaxixa Ingliża – Bermuda Buttercup – Oxalis pes-caprae 
Ħaxixa tal-baħar tal-ħarifa – Lesser Arrowgrass – Triglochin bulbosa subsp. laxiflora
Ħaxixa tal-misk – Musk Stork’s Bill – Erodium moschatum
Ħobbejża tal-warda kbira – Rose Mallow – Lavatera trimestris
Ħobbejża tar-raba – Common Mallow – Malva sylvestris
Kaħwiela – Crown Anemone – Anemone coronaria
Kalaminta – Lesser Calaminth – Calamintha nepeta
Lellux – Crown Daisy – Glebionis coronaria
Ċfolloq Sqalli – Scilly Buttercup – Ranunculus muricatus
Margerita salvaġġa – Southern Daisy – Bellis sylvestris
Moxt – Mallow-Leaved Stork’s Bill – Erodium malacoides
Narċis imwaħħar – Late Narcissus – Narcissus serotinus
Putorja – Stinking Madder – Putoria calabrica
Qarsajja tal-ilma – Clustered Dock – Rumex conglomeratus
Salvja tal-Madonna – Great Sage – Phlomis fruticosa
Siġra tal-għargħar – Sandarac gum tree – Tetraclinis articulata
Siġret il-Ħarir – African Wolfbane – Periploca angustifolia
Spraġġ xewwieki – Mediterranean Asparagus – Asparagus aphyllus
Te Sqalli – White Hedge-Nettle – Prasium majus
Tulliera ta’ Malta – Maltese Fleabane – Chiliadenus bocconei
Tursin il-Bir – Maidenhair Fern – Adiantum capillus-veneris
Tursin ir-riħ – Annual Maidenhair – Anogramma leptophylla
Xewk abjad – Mediterranean Thistle – Galactites tomentosa
Xewk tal-Madonna – Milk Thistle – Silybum marianum                   
Xpakkapietra – Maltese savory – Micromeria microphylla 
Żebbuġija – Olive-leaved Germander – Teucrium fruticans
Żigland tal-għerq – Tuberous Hawkbit – Leonodon tuberosus

ara wkoll:

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 8 – Il-Kaħwiel