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

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

related articles on this blog:

Jappella biex Chadwick lakes jigi mmaniġġat aħjar

In-nixfa tax-xitwa u s-siġra tal-lewż

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/xqed-naghmlu-bl-ilma-tax-xita/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/water-harvesting-culture/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/aghmel-xita-aghmel-2/

 

 

 


Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 9 – In-narċis

December 11, 2017

In-narċis

Alfred E. Baldacchino

It-Tnejn, 11 ta’ Diċembru, 2017

In-narċis jagħmel parti mill-familja Amaryllidaceae, familja li tiġbor fiha speċi ta’ pjanti li ma jagħmlux injam, li jikbru minn sena għal sena fil-biċċa l-kbira tagħhom minn basla. In-narċis huwa speċi indiġena għall-Mediterran, għalkemm ġiet meħuda f’numru ta’ pajjiżi oħra fejn bdiet tikber fis-selvaġġ waħeda.

In-narċis huwa indiġenu wkoll għall-gżejjer Maltin u huwa komuni. Wieħed jista’ jiltaqa’ miegħu f’għelieqi, fil-widien, fi rqajja mhux maħduma bil-blat.

Il-fjura tan-narċis għandha sitt petali bojod, ovali wiesgħa, u f’nofsha għandha tazza qisa’ kuruna safra li tkun wiesgħa darbtejn aktar milli tkun għolja. Il-fjura tkun bejn 20 sa 40 mm diametru. Din tikber fuq magħseb li jista’ jogħla minn 30 sa 45 ċm. Fuq dan il-magħseb jista’ jkun hemm sa madwar tmien fjuriet, kollha jserħu fuq għonq żgħir, f’forma ta’ umbrella ħerġin minn fomm wieħed, jħarsu ‘l barra u kemmxejn imdendlin l-isfel. Huma għandhom riħa ħelwa tfuħ ħafna.

Ġot-tazza f’nofs kull fjura jkollha sitt għenuq qosra, ta’ żewġ daqsijiet, li fuqhom iġorru l-boroż bl-għabra tad-dakkra. In-narċis jidher għall-ħabta ta’ Ottubru sa Frar. Il-fjura għanda ħajja qasira ħafna.

Il-weraq joħroġ mill-basla. Dan huwa rqiq u ċatt qisu żigarella wiesgħa minn 3 sa 15-il mm,  u li jista’ jkun twil sa 40 ċm. Il-lewn ta’ dan il-weraq huwa jew aħdar jew aħdar jgħati fil-blu.

il-partijiet tal-pjanta tan-narċis

Meta l-fjura tiddakkar, jiġifieri l-għabra tad-dakra minn fuq l-għenuq żgħar bil-għajnuna tal-insetti, bħal ngħidu aħna, in-naħal, tasal fl-ovarju fejn ikun hemm l-għenieqed tal-bajd, tifforma l-frotta. Ġo din il-frotta jkun hemm iż-żerriegħa. Din il-frotta issir qisha bajda żgħira żengulija li meta tinxef tinqasam u titfa’ ż-żerriegħa sewda ta’ ġo fiha ‘l barra.

kif iż-żerriegħa tittajjar mill-frotta tan-narċis

Wara li jinxfu l-fjura u l-weraq, u ż-żerriegħa tkun waqgħet fil-madwar, il-basla taħt l-art torqod, u l-għeruq tagħha jiġbduha aktar l-isfel fil-ħamrija. Il-basla tkun kemmxejn ovali, ġejja għall-ponta u miksija b’kisja kannella. Ġo fiha din taħżen kemm karboidrati kif ukoll ilma. Il-basla terġa tqum is-sena ta’ wara. Dan jgħin lin-narċis kontra r-ragħa tal-annimali, kif ukoll iħarisha minn nixfa u s-sħana tax-xhur tas-sajf.

Meta terġa tasal il-ħarifa, il-weraq u l-magħseb jitfaċċaw fuq wiċċ l-art wara li joħorġu mill-basla.

 

In-narċis kienet waħda mill-ewwel fjuri selvaġġi li kienet tiġi mkabbra għall-bejgħ, kemm bħala fjura kif ukoll bħala pjanti li minna kien jittieħed likwidu li jkollu l-karatteristiċi tal-fwieħa tal-pjanta (essential oils). Dan l-aktar li kien issir fi Franza fejn kien jintuża għall-fwieħa, għas-sapun, għall-kosmetiċi, u anki biex jagħti togħma lill-ikel u x-xorb, kif ukoll biex iżid ir-riħa tal-inċens u prodotti oħra tat-tindif tad-dar.

Anki hawn Malta in-narċis kien jinqata’ bi kwantitajiet kbar, u tfal kienu ta’ spiss ikunu fit-triqat ibiegħu bukketti tan-narċis. Dan ma tantx kien jgħin lin-narċis għaliex kif nafu kull fjura maqtugħa mis-selvaġġ ma tkunx tħalliet iżżerrgħa u hekk kien jintilfu ħafna żerriegħa tan-narċis. In-narċis kompla jikber mingħajr ma jiżdied billi l-basla tiegħu tfaqqas u minn dawn jitilgħu pjanti ġodda. Imma minħabba li ma kienx ikun hemm tidkir minn fjura għall-oħra bil-għajnuna tal-għabra tad-dakra, ma kienx ikun hemm ġenerazzjonijiet ġodda aktar addattati għall-bidliet fl-ambjent. Tant li jekk wieħed iżur dawk il-postijiet fejn kienu jinqatgħu ħafna fjuri tan-narċis għall-bejgħ, wieħed jista’ jara li n-narċis ta’ dawk l-inħawi huwa ferm iżgħar fid-daqs u ma jfuħx daqs dawk il-fjuri tan-narċis minn fejn dawn ma kienux jinqatgħu.

Narcissus (1590s) by Caravaggio (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome)

Jingħad li l-isem tan-narċis huwa mnissel minn kelma Griega li tfisser  traqqad lis-sensi – narkotika. Jingħad ukoll li l-isem ġej mill-twemmin li din ħadet l-isem ta’ dak iż-żagħżugħ Narcissus li kien kaċċatur magħruf għas-sbuħija tiegħu. Tant kien kburi bih innifsu li kien iwarrab lil dawk kollha li kienu jħobbuh. Meta ra x-xbiha tiegħu fl-ilma ta’ għadira, tant ħabb lil din ix-xbiha u baqa’ jħares lejha li fl-aħħar miet għax tilef kull rieda li jgħix. Anki llum meta xi ħadd ikun iffisat fih innifsu u kif iħossu kburi u kif jidher u jarawħ in-nies, ngħidulu li dan huwa narċissiżmu.

M’hemm l-ebda dubju li n-narċis hija fjura sabiħa li ssaħħar. Imma mhux kulħadd iħares lejn in-narċis l-istess. Hemm dik il-mentalità tal-punent li jħarsu lejn in-narċis bħala fjura simbolu tal-vanità. Filwaqt li l-kultura tal-lvant aktar tħares lejn in-narċis bħala simbolu ta’ ġid u risq. Hemm dawk ukoll fil-lvant, li jaraw in-narċis bħala simbolu ta’ għajnjen sbieħ.

Imma l-għidut u t-twemmin, nieqes minn kull raġuni xjentifika, jwassal ukoll biex uħud iqisuha bħala fjura li ma ġġibilhomx risq u ma jkunux iriduha fid-djar tagħhom, minħabba li l-blanzun tan-narċis ikun imdendel kemmxejn ‘l isfel. Tant li fi żmien il-Griegi tal-qedem, din kienet titqies li għandha rabta mal-mewt, u għalhekk kienet titpoġġa fuq l-oqbra għax kien maħsub li din twassal għall-mewt.

Minkejja dan kollu n-narċis dehret ħafna f’kulturi differenti kemm fil-letteratura u fl-art ta’ ħafna artisti kbar matul is-sekli.

Jibqa’ l-fatt li n-narċis hija pjanta Maltija, li meta jasal iż-żmien tagħha tikber, tiksi u twarrad l-ambjent naturali Malti. Hija tgħin biex tkompli turi s-seher ta’ dawn il-gżejjer, minkejja li dan mhux apprezzat minn ħafna. U b’din il-ġirja mgħaġġla konsumista tal-lum, ħafna minna qed jiġi maqlugħ, mirdum u meqrud.

In-narċis għadu mhux mogħti ħarsien f’pajjiżna. Dan minkejja li din tista’ mhux biss issebbaħ l-ambjent naturali tagħna, imma anki l-ambjent urban, fejn tista’ wkoll tikber u ssaħħar lil dawk kollha li jafu japprezzaw u li jafu jifhmu l-mirakli tal-ħlejjaq l-oħra slavaġġ, bħal f’dan il-każ fejn il-flora, li kull sena mingħajr ħadd ma jħallashom jew jieħu ħsiebhom, iżejnu pajjiżna.

 

In-narċis – Narcissus tazetta – French daffodil

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

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Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 4 – It-tengħud tas-siġra

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 3 – Il-kappara

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 2-Il-kromb il-baħar

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