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




Il-ktieb: Fjuri tal-gżejjer Maltin

December 8, 2015


Fjuri tal-gżejjer Maltin

Il-Ħadd 6 ta’ Diċembru, 2015

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Lanfranco, E., Bonett, G. (2015) Wild flowers of the Maltese Islands. BDL Publishers, Malta. pġ. 208.

Lanfranco huwa isem li mill-ewwel ifakkrek fin-natura. Edwin Lanfranco mbagħad iwasslek qalb il-pjanti: il-flora l-aktar dik indiġena tal-gżejjer Maltin u tal-Mediterran. Mingħajr dubju Edwin huwa l-botanista bl-akbar esperjenza u studji xjentifiċi dwar il-fjuri li jikbru u jżejnu l-ambjent naturali ta’ pajjiżna.

Mill-banda l-oħra Guido Bonett illum huwa fost l-aqwa fotografi tan-natura. Jekk hux għasfur, insett żgħir jew fjura, żgur li Guido, anke bl-esperjeza u l-imħabba tiegħu għall-ħlejjaq li jaqsmu din l-art magħna, għid li ma jistrieħx qabel jirnexxilu ‘jaħtaf’ bil-lenti tal-kamera u jiġbed ritratt wara ritratt biex jaqbdu u jippriserva dak il-mument fil-memorja tal-kamera diġitali tiegħu.

xewk tal-madonna

Xewk tal-Madonna

Ma għandiex xi ngħidu li l-għasfur, l-insett jew il-fjura lanqas biss ikunu jafu x’ġara għaliex ma jiġux mimsusa u jibqgħu għaddejjin bil-ħajja tagħhom ta’ kuljum. U Guido ferħan bir-ritratt tiegħu li jkun jista’ jaqsam ma’ dawk li jew ma għandhomx il-ħin biex igawdu minn dan il-ġmiel tan-natura, jew inkella mhux midħla ta’ dawn l-għeġubijiet.

suffejra tar-raba'

Suffejra tar-raba’

Kif wieħed jista’ jaħseb, meta mbagħad jiltaqgħu tnejn bħal Edwin u Guido, bil-għan li jippubblikaw ktieb fuq il-fjuri li nsibu f’pajjizna, allura bil-fors wieħed jistenna’ li jogħxa bil-ġmiel u bit-tagħrif miġbur. Għalkemm ftit apprezzat, wieħed jieħu gost jgħid li llum hawn ħafna nies għatxana bil-kbir biex ikunu jafu aktar fuq dawn l-għeġubijiet tan-natura.

wild flowers book

Il-qoxra ta’ quddiem tal-ktieb

Wild Flowers of the Maltese Islands b’208 paġna, ippubblikat mill-BDL Publishers, huwa ktieb ta’ din ix-xorta.

Minn aktar mill-1000 speċi ta’ fjuri li nsibu jikbru waħedhom fl-ambjent naturali ta’ pajjiżna, Edwin u Guido jagħtuna tagħrif fuq ’l fuq minn 300 speċi minnhom bir-ritratti mehmuża ta’ kull fjura. Tagħrif tekniku imma miktub b’mod popolari li anki dawk li ma humiex midħla tas-suġġett jistgħu jifhmu mingħajr xkiel.

Il-ktieb għandu daħla ta’ ħadd ħlief Guido Lanfranco, hu Edwin, u wieħed mill-pijunieri li ħadmu fi żminijiet mhux faċli u b’diffikutajiet kbar. Iżda Guido Lanfranco kien wieħed minn dawk li ħejja t-triq għall-aktar apprezzament u għarfien ta’ dan il-wirt ħaj. Fost il-kummenti li għamel Guido Lanfranco fid-daħla laqatni dak fejn qal li llum l-apprezzament ta’ dan il-wirt qiegħed jikber ħafna minkejja li l-ambjent naturali qiegħed jinqered b’rata perikoluża mgħaġġla.

L-awturi tal-ktieb jibdew billi jgħatu tagħrif dwar l-għamla tal-fjura u t-taqsimiet tagħha. Wara dan jingħata tagħrif ħafif fuq l-ambjent naturali ta’ pajjizna fejn wieħed jista’ jiltaqa’ mal-fjuri Maltin, bħal ngħidu aħna, il-bosk, il-makkja, ix-xagħri, l-istepa, l-irdumijiet, ix-xtut, l-għaram ramel, il-bwar salmastri, il-widien u l-għadajjar fil-blat, kif ukoll ambjenti mittiefsa mill-bniedem. It-tagħrif fuq kull tip ta’ ambjent huwa mgħejjun minn ritratti.

Jingħata tagħrif fuq kif l-ispeċi tal-fjuri kif huma migbura f’familji, f’ordnijiet u f’ġeneri.

għallet is-serduq

Għallet is-serduq

Wara dan it-tagħrif, il-ktieb ikompli b’ħames taqsimiet: taqsimiet ta’ ħames kuluri li kull waħda tiġbor fiha l-fjuri ta’ dak il-lewn, bħal: fjuri bojod, sofor, ħomor u roża, vjola u blu, ħodor u kannella. Dan jagħmilha eħfef biex wieħed ikun jista’ isib mill-ewwel il-fjura li jkun jixtieq isib tagħrif fuqha, jekk ma jkunx jaf x’isimha. U f’dawn it-taqsimiet hemm xita ta’ ritratti tal-fjuri Maltin ta’ kull kulur li jissemmew fil-ktieb.

Fl-aħħar tal-ktieb wieħed jista’ jsib glossarju, lista ta’ kliem xi ftit tekniku li huwa mfisser b’mod ħafif biex il-qarrej jifhem aħjar.

Wara l-glossarju nsibu tliet indiċi tal-ismijiet tal-fjuri kollha li jissemmew fil-ktieb. Indiċi bl-ismijiet xjentifiċi, ieħor bl-ismijiet bil-Malti u ieħor bl-ismijiet bl-Ingliż.

M’għandi l-ebda dubju li dan il-ktieb huwa ta’ siewi kbir għall-dawk kollha li jridu jkunu jafu aktar fuq il-wirt sinjur li n-natura ħejjitilna biex iżżejjen pajjiżna. Wirt fraġli u ħaj li jekk jinqered mhemm l-ebda triq biex jerġa’ jinġab lura. Huwa ktieb tajjeb għall-għalliema biex f’idejhom ikollhom minjiera ta’ tagħrif biex jgħinhom jgħallmu lill-istudenti tagħhom, f’kull livell tal-edukazzjoni, il-ġmiel ta’ pajjiżna u r-responsabbiltà li lkoll għandna biex dan il-wirt inħarsuh u nerġgħu ngħadduh lura bla mittifes lil dawk li selfuhulna.

Bżonjuz ħafna wkoll għall-medja, biex ikollhom f’idejhom l-ismijiet bil-Malti u r-ritratt tal-fjuri li wieħed jista’ jsib fil-gżejjer Maltin.

Dawk li jġemmgħu l-kotba Maltin jew fuq Malta żgur li għandhom isibhulu post fuq l-ixkaffef tal-Melitensia.

Insomma huwa bżonjuż għal kull minn għandu xi interss nazzjonali, l-aktar fuq il-wirt ħaj naturali.

U anki dawk li forsi f’dawn il-ġranet ifittxu xi ktieb biex jgħatu bħala rigal għall-Milied, ma jisgħux jagħmlu aħjar milli jgħatu kopja ta’ dan il-ktieb: rigal xieraq għall-Milied u rigal lill-ambjent natural bit-tixrid ta’ tagħrif dwar il-fjuri Maltin ta’ pajjiżna.