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/

 

 

 

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Il-kappella f’tal-ħlas u t-tqala tal-irħam

July 28, 2014

NewsBook

It-Tnejn, 28 ta’  Lulju 2014

Il-kappella f’tal-ħlas u t-tqala tal-irħam

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Dan l-aħħar ħabib tiegħi ħadni nara l-kappella tal-Madonna mtella’ s-sema f’tal-Ħlas: fuq ir-riħ ta’ Wied is-Sewda, bejn Ħal Qormi u Ħaż-Żebbug. Qatt ma kont żort dawn l-inħawi. Kappella b’artkitettura klassika barokka, bil-karatteristiċi tal-kappellel li wieħed jista’ jsib imferxa madwar il-pajjiż. Aktar tagħrif fuq din il-kappella sibtu fil-ktieb ta’ Joseph Camilleri u Joseph Spiteri Is-Santwarju tal-Ħlas Ħal Qormi ippubblikat fl-2005.

Il-kappella f'Tal- Ħlas

Il-kappella f’Tal- Ħlas

Waħedha, qalb l-għelieqi sa mill-1465 qabel ġiet miżjuda bix-xogħol tal-perit Lorenzo Gafà, illum siekta u għadha maqtugħa mill-bini li qed jibla’ kull biċċa art li jsib quddiemu, dejjem bil-barka ta’ minn suppost jikkontrollah. Għadha hiemda f’misraħ quddiem palazz mibni fi żmien il-Kavallieri. Minn jaf x’raw u x’semgħu bejniethom. Żgur li kull nħar ta’ Ħadd u f’festi kmandati, kienu jinġemgħu raħħala u bdiewa bil-qorq, bis-sidrija u b’lobbja f’rashom, fuq iz-zuntier jew fil-loġġa mgħammra bil-bankijiet u l-imwejjed tal-ġebel, kollha jaqsmu l-ferħ u l-imrar ta’ matul il-ġimgħa li tkun għaddiet, waqt li jsaħħu r-rabta bejniethom f’dik il-laqgħa soċjali.

Iz-zuntier bil-loġġia biswit

Iz-zuntier bil-loġġia biswit

Ħassejtni miblugħ minn dawk iż-żminijiet mgħoddija, fejn it-tbatija fiżika kienet kbira, imma xejn anqas kienet ir-rabta man-natura. Bdejt bħal nisma’ l-prezzijiet li ġab id-dugħ ta’ rtajjel u qnatar li l-bdiewa ħadu l-pitkali bil-karettun: biċċa, nofs biċċa, skut, disgħa rbajja, jew salib. Kemm sejra ġġib il-bħajra bikrija, il-frott irqiq u l-patata. Ħassejtni nisma’ raħħal b’nofs tbissima, wiċċu jixgħel, jistqarr kif l-erħa tal-ewwel waslet biex tferrgħa, waqt li kien sejjer jiġi bżonn ta’ barri tar-razza biex jgħammarlu oħra. Tant kont mitluf fl-ħsibijiet ta’ dawk iż-żminijiet storiċi jidwu madwar il-ħitan taz-zuntier, li sieħbi kellu jiġbidni minn spalti meta ma weġibtux mill-ewwel.

Ġawhriet bħal din il-kappella għandna ħafna u hija ħasra li wħud minnhom huma kważi mitluqa. Għalhekk kien ħsieb tajjeb u għaqli tal-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Ħal Qormi li bil-għajnuna ta’ €247,000 mill-UE, nieda proġett tar- restawr tal-mgħodija storika li tiġbor fiha l-misraħ tal-kappella tal-Ħlas.

Tagħrif mogħti mill-Kunsill ta' Ħal Qormi

Tagħrif mogħti mill-Kunsill ta’ Ħal Qormi

Sfortunatament meta wieħed jara x-xogħol ma jistax’ jgħid li dan kollu jinfilsa b’mod naturali kif ukoll storiku mal-ambjent ta’ dak il-misraħ u l-Kappella tal-Ħlas.

Is-siġar li jħaddnu l-misraħ 'miżbura' bil-ħsieb tal-bankijiet

Is-siġar li jħaddnu l-misraħ  fi ħwat tal-irħam, ‘miżbura’ biex jaqdu l-bankijiet

 

L-akbar opra tixher fir-restawr ta’dan il-misraħ huma żewġt iħwat kbar madwar dawn iż-żewġ siġriet li b’intellilġenza endemika Maltija, inksew b’tip ta’ irħam! Jista’ wieħed jimmagina misraħ tal-kappella ta’ qabel l-1465 mibnija bil-ġebla Maltija f’nofs ir-raba’, jiġi restawrat b’żewġt iħwat madwar żewġ sigriet, miksija bl-irħam?

Kif qalli l-ħabib tiegħi meta ġibed l-attenzjoni lil xi ħadd mill-kunsill qalulu li dawn il-ħwat ġew aħjar minn kif riedet il-MEPA. Din riedet li l-konki oriġinali tas-siġar jiddawru bil-ferrobattuto, jaqblu mal-kanċel taz-zuntier. Numri oħra ta’ kondizzjonijiet kienu dwar il-ħarsien tal-ħitan tas-sejjiegħ. Possibli li l-MEPA waslet fi stat li tagħmel dak li jgħidulha u mhux dak li tordna hi? Qaluli wkoll li l-MEPA qed tistudja t-tqala ta’ dan l-irħam u ksur ieħor tal-kundizzjonijiet fil-permess.

Is-siġar li jħaddnu l-misraħ 'miżbura' bil-ħsieb tal-bankijiet

Irħama tat-tnedija tal-proġett

Fil-ġenb tal-kappella f’tal-Ħlas isseraħ fuq irħama wieqfa, tabella tagħti tgħarif dwar l-għajnuna mill-UE u t-tnedija tal-proġett mill-Prim Ministru fil-20 ta’ Mejju fl-2014. Sadanittant il-MEPA għadha qed tistudja x-xogħol li sar kontra l-kundizzjonijet tagħha. U naħseb ukoll li min fassal ix-xogħol ukoll mar jiżżi ħajr ’il-madonna tal-ħlas.

Minkejja l-kondizzjonijiet mill-MEPA dwar il-ħarsien tal-ħitan tas-sejjiegħ, siment u irħam mormija fuq wieħedmill-ħitan.

Minkejja l-kondizzjonijiet mill-MEPA dwar il-ħarsien tal-ħitan tas-sejjiegħ, siment u irħam mormija fuq wieħed mill-ħitan.

 

tagħrif fuq xi kliem

1. dugħ – mezzez mimlijin frott u ħaxix li l-bdiewa jieħdu l-pitkali.
2. biċċa – erba’ xelini u żewġ soldi (4s.2d.) jew 50 sold tal-flus qodma. Illum isarfu €0.48
3. nofs biċċa – żewġ xelini u sold (2s.1d.) jew 25 sold tal-flus qodma illum €0.24
4. skut – xelin u tmin soldi (1s 8d) jew għoxrin sold, illum €0.192
5. Disgħa rbajja’ – xelin u tlett soldi jew 15-il sold illum €0.144
6. salib – l-istess bħal skut
7. bħajra – bettieħ
8. erħa tal-ewwel – baqra żgħira ta’ aktar minn sena li diġà ferrgħet darba
9. erħa – baqra żgħira li għadha qatt ma kienet ħobla

alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com
aebaldacchino@gmail.com