TKOMPLI L-QERDA FIL-ĠNIEN HOWARD… imma għaliex?

June 9, 2014

NewsBook

It-Tnejn, 9 ta’ Ġunju, 2014

TKOMPLI L­-QERDA FIL-ĠNIEN HOWARD… imma għaliex?

Alfred E. Baldachino

Kull darba li nitla’ nittawwal il-Ġnien Howard, dejjem niltaqa’ ma xi impatt negattiv ġdid. Xi kultant inħoss li f’dan il-pajjiż hawn xi direttiva jew xi politika uffiċjali biex l-ambjent naturali jew il-biodiversità ta’ pajjiżna tinqered, u minn jeqridha jitħallas minn flus pubbliċi.

Fit-2 ta’ Marzu 2014, tpoġġa ritratt fuq sit Rabti li wera ammont ta’ żrar li tferrex taħt is-siġar taż-żnuber fil-Ġnien Howard, ir-Rabat. Wara li tliet Rabtin marru l-uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru, il-MEPA waqqfet dan ix-xogħol. Il-Kunsill Lokali (tal-Imdina) ġie ordnat li fi żmien xahar ineħħi dan iż-żrar li sar mingħajr permess. Il-K.L. Mdina appella minn din id-deċiżjoni. Issa għaddew tliet xhur u kollox għadu kif kien. Dan wassal biex inbdiet talba biex dan jitneħħa: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/665/188/518/?taf_id=11173325&cid=fb_na

Il-MEPA għadha qed tistudju, taħsibha, tixtarr, twieżen din il-problema u għadha ma ħadet l-ebda passi. Nafu li l-MEPA tħalli deċiżjonijiet bħal dawn minn ġurnata għal oħra sakemm forsi ssib kif taħsel idejha u ma tieħu l-ebda deċiżjoni, bħalma ġara fil-­każ taċ-ċimiterju f’Wied il-Qasab fin-Nadur Għawdex. Wieħed ma jistax ma jgħidx li l-MEPA ssibha bi tqila biex turi  interess fil-ħarsien tal-ambjent, qasam fejn falliet bil-kbir, saħansitra anki fi kwistjonijiet żgħar.

Il-kisi ta' parti mill-Ġnien Howard biż-żrar

Il-kisi ta’ parti mill-Ġnien Howard biż-żrar

Fl-aħħar mawra tiegħi r-Rabat, bħas-soltu mxejt matul il-ġnien; bdejt mill-ġnien tas-Salib, dak iż-żgħir, u pass pass wasalt sa fuq it-Tomba, li għal dawk li ma humiex midħla tal-Ġnien Rabti, hija l-aktar parti ’l ġewwa li tħares lejn l-Imtarfa, fuq l-istazzjon tal-ferrovija l-antik.

Fil-ġnien is-siġar tal-palm, dawk tal-kanizzati u dawk tat-tamal, kollha kienu meqruda mill-bumunqar aħmar tal-palm. Baqa’ biss il-fdal taz-zokk tagħhom: momument għal dik il-politika li minkejja li kellha l-parir biex ma jiġux impurtati siġar mill-Eġittu u minn Sqallija, xorta tat il-barka biex dawn jidħlu Malta. Baqa’ waħda biss, fil-kantuniera tat-Tomba tħares lejn il-Domus Romana u konvint li meta nerġa nitla’ r-Rabat, tkun għebet mal-oħrajn.

L-aħħar siġra tal-palm li baqa' fil-Ġnien Howard. L-oħrajn kollha mietu u nqatgħu

L-aħħar siġra tal-palm li baqa’ fil-Ġnien Howard. L-oħrajn kollha mietu u nqatgħu

 Dort dawra mejt mat-Tomba fejn matul dawn l-aħħar ġranet fix-xfar tal-wesgħa kien ikun hemm numru ta’ fjuri slavaġġ, fosthom is-suffejra ta’ Malta, endemika għall-gżejjer Maltin (ara ritratt). Il-biċċa l-kbira tagħhom għebu, mqaxxrin, u ma niskantax jekk kienu anki mbexxin bil-kimika velenuża biex ma jerġgħux jitilgħu aktar. Lanqas naħla ma tista’ tirgħa u ddakkar il-fjuri slavaġġ, minkejja li din ittina’ l-għasel u ddakkar il-frott. U dan fi ġnien.

Suffejra tar-raba' li kienet tikber madwar it-tomba.

Suffejra ta’ Malta li kienet tikber madwar it-Tomba.

Jiena u ħiereġ lura mit-­Tomba għan-naħa tad-Domus Romana, inħsadt. Ftit ġimgħat ilu kien hemm numru ta’ pjanti slavaġġ bħal ngħidu aħna ġarġir abjad, ħarira ħamra, fjurdulis, u oħrajn li kollha, mingħajr ħlas, kienu jlibbsu l-inħawi bil-kuluri u jwieżnu insetti dakkara, fosthom in-naħal. Dawn għebu għax kollha ġew maħruta u ma kien baqa’ xejn minnhom. Imħallas mill-K.L. Mdina, bi flus pubbliċi, ma għadniex xi ngħidu. Imma l-isbaħ, u li vera turi l-mentalità miskina ta’ dan il-pajjiż, wara li qerdu kull fjura u werqa Maltija li kienet qed tikber f’dawn il-mixtliet, x’taħsbu li ħallew? Penisetum (Fountain Grass), pjanta invażiva li qed tintuża mill-kuntrattur tal-Gvern fit-toroq u li sabet ruħha fil-Ġnien Howard; minkejja li din hija invażiva u qed tinfirex madwar il-gżejjer Maltin kemm fit-toroq, kif ukoll fl-ambjent naturali. Din tħalliet hemm!

Ġarġir Abjad kien isebbaħ il-=mixtliet fil-ġnien. Inqered kollu.

Ġarġir Abjad kien isebbaħ il-mixtliet fil-ġnien. Inqered kollu.

U hawnhekk sfortunatament niddejjaq ngħid li dan il-pajjiz milli jidher ma jista’ jinfeda qatt. Il-valur li jingħata lill-biodiversità huwa valur ta’ flus biss. Jekk wieħed jixtri pjanta jew siġra, dan itiha valur. Imma jekk pjanta tikber waħeda, allura din ma għandiex valur u tista’ tinqered, u titbexx bil-kimika valenuża biex ma terġax titla’. U mhux talli hekk, talli din il-qerda għandha l-approvazzjoni uffiċjali u tithallas minn flus il-poplu.

 

2012.12.28---it-Tomba---karozzi,-siġar-imutu,-u-penisetum
It-Tomba, fil-Ġnien Ħoward, taħt ir-responsabbiltà tal-K.L. tal-Imdina
– Karozzi, siġar tal-palm qed imutu jew mietu. u pjanti invażivi tal-Penisetum.

 L-akbar xokk ta’ din il-metalità miskina ta’ dan il-pajjiż kien in-numru ta’ karozzi li bdew deħlin biex jistrieħu fuq it-Tomba. Tista’ timmaġina karozzi fi ġnien? Qaluli li kien hemm tieġ l-Imdina u hekk il-K.L.Mdina jħalli is-serħan tal-karozzi fil-Ġnien Howard. Jista’ wieħed jimmagina kieku l-K.L. Mdina jħalli karozzi fil-foss fil-passaġġi fejn sar ġnien għall-familja? Jew iħalli l-karozzi kollha tat-tieġ jidħlu l-Imdina u jitħallew quddiem il-Katidral? Jew aħjar jitqiegħdu fuq iz-zuntier tal-Katidral? U aktar u aktar jiddaħħlu ġewwa l-Katidral? Ara kieku kif ir-residenti tal­-Imdina u l-Maltin iqumu għal minn ikun ta dan il-permess. Mhux talli hekk talli l­-ebda karozza ma tista’ tidħol ġol­-Imdina, ħlief dawk tar-­residenti. Imma li l-karozzi jitqiegħdu ġo ġnien fir-Rabat, jidher li kollox sew għall-K.L. Mdina!

2014.05.23 - Calendula-suffruticosa-subsp.-fulgida3

L-anqas naħla ma tista’ ddakkar fjura u tagħmel l-għasel

Li jinkwetani huwa li milli jidher ma hemm l-ebda entità politika li hija responsabbli biex twaqqaf dawn l-oxxenitajiet. Suppost li hemm Ministeri li huma responsabbli mit-trasport; mill-ġonna; mill-Kunsilli Lokali, u anki mill-MEPA. Din tal-aħħar issa ħaditha drawwa li meta jkun hemm il-qerda tal-ambjenbt tħares in-naħa l-oħra sakemm xi ħadd minn fuqha jiġbdilha l­attenzjoni. Ara ż-żrar issa għadu hemm tliet xhur minkejja l-protesti tan-nies u nuqqas ta’ permessi. U la ma hemm l-ebda azzjoni ministerjali, allura wieħed jista’ jgħid li dawn għandhom il-barka ta’ min imexxi. Kont anki naħseb li r-Rabat hemm kunsill lokali wkoll, imma mid-dehra sejjer żball. Wara kollox kappell ma jmejjilx lill-ieħor.

Mill-esperjenza li għandi u mill-kuntatti li għandi mal-Kunsilli Lokali ma nsibhiex diffiċli biex ngħid li l-Kunsill tal-Imdina ma jħabbatha miegħu ħadd fuq in-nuqqas ta’ apprezzament tal-ambjent: il-foss tal-Imdina, il-Ġnien Howard, u issa smajt l-għajdut li qed ikun hemm xi ħsibijiet biex jinqalgħu dawk is-siġar ta’ taħt it-Tomba li jwasslu sa Għajn Ħamam biex din il-wesgħa tintuża għall-karozzi. Wieħed għad irid jara x’se jiġri imma, għalkemm jekk din tasal sa għand il­MEPA wieħed jista’ jgħid mill-ewwel x’se jiġri.

Il-fdalijiet tas-iġra tal-palm fil-ġnien Howard, ir-Rabat. Pedestal lest għal minn daħħal il-bumunqar aħmar f'dawn il-gżejjer.

Il-fdalijiet tas-siġar tal-palm fil-ġnien Howard, ir-Rabat. Pedestal lest għal minn daħħal il-bumunqar aħmar f’dawn il-gżejjer.

Kif jgħidu mhux il-flus u l-poter jagħmluk matur u konxju għall-weġgħat tas-soċjetà u tal-ambjent. Anzi ħafna drabi huma dawn li jwasslu għal dawn il-weġgħat, aktar u aktar meta wieħed isib ruħu jgħum fihom.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com

 

 

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Cash cow in the ditch

April 2, 2014

times of malta

Wednesday, 2nd April 2014

Cash cow in the ditch

 Alfred E. Baldacchino

On the anniversary of the official opening of the ‘quality garden’ at Mdina Ditch,  6th March 2013.  I thought of revisiting this jewel in the crown of bad planning and management.

A bird’s eye view of the ditch from Howard Gardens prepared me for the worst. A water tanker was busily engaged close to a newly excavated cistern adjacent to Greek gate, connected with its umbilical chord: filling the cistern to quench the thirsty turf?

Statistic regarding the planning and management of the site were indeed shocking. The original 300 plus citrus trees had been numbered before uprooting. Some still sport their number, one labelled 270.  Only 151

Tree number 270 managed to remain on site.citrus remain. 30 laurel bushes, seemingly imported, replaced the citrus trees which had given up the ghost. The total number of trees in the ditch is 198.

Past the place where the 80 year old protected olive tree was uprooted and carted away, without any approval from that toothless environmental watchdog, I could not but ask why Maltese authorities, especially those entrusted with tree protection, hate trees so much?

Part of the ditch was always under lock and key contributing to a rich biodiversity. When the doors were flung wide open, local entrepreneurs swooped on the EU funds and with political blessings and direction, destroyed and eliminated such natural habitat to create a ‘quality garden’.

The deepest end of the ditch offered new surprises. A historic low arch leads to a platform of deck timber, approximately 20 m by 15 m, raised on strong iron beams. Why such waste of resources? It was surrounded by membrane which was covered with white spalls, like those which recently were spread around part of Howard Gardens. The area previously embraced a rich meadow full of local wild flowers, similar to an adjacent area. Was such platform meant to obliterate any sign of wild flowers with determination and vengeance? Was it meant to spend every cent of EU funds, no mater how?

the ghost platform

  The ghost platform

Adjacent to the platform is a new low rubble wall built with the use of concrete. According to the Rubble Walls and Rural Structures (Conservation and Maintenance) Rubble Regulations, 1997, a rubble wall is a dry stone wall, built in loose, unhewn stones which stand by gravity and friction without the use of mortar.

Around such barren, jarring monster of architectural acumen, without any consideration for biodiversity, are a numbers of lamp holders. In this ‘quality garden’, lamp lights total 161: tall, short, ground and flood lightings. Good business, considering that for every 1.2 tree there is one lamp light. And one has to include the electric elevator in this ‘quality garden’.

Some of the different lighting on site

Some of the different lighting on site

Light pollution is impacting nocturnal life, as it does in any garden and its surroundings. The amount of energy and carbon emission used daily to light the whole area further expose unprofessional landscaping, the more so since the same ministry was also responsible for biodiversity, and for the reduction of carbon emissions thus cutting down on use of electricity, both according to EU obligations?

the triumphant caper

Capers raising their heads in victory

I was always under the impression that the bastions, badly needing restoration, were accomplished in a professional way. But my optimism was short lived. After barely twelve months of restoration, a line of capers dotting the cordon and facade of the bastions are triumphantly showing their heads in victory. The invasive cape sorrel is waving its bright yellow flowers in spite; while wall snapdragon sports white bed slippers for the planners and advisers.

The invasive cape sorrel waving in spite

The invasive cape sorrel waving in spite

These wild flowers have already reclaimed and won back their previous foothold on the bastions. In a couple of year’s time, say five or six years, the restored bastions would once again have surrender to this vegetation, notwithstanding the 6 million euro injected from EU funds.

white snapdragon

A good opportunity has been missed. Was it bad workmanship? Was it unprofessional advice? Was it lack of experience in such delicate works, or was it the urgency to officially open this ‘quality garden’ before the election which contributed to such a waste of resources?

In such a ‘quality garden’ the lack of professional planning and environment management is supreme. Yet those responsible had the audacity to etch their names in stone on the monstrous black plaque. It is a shame that MEPA’s contribution is not also acknowledged. Neither is the EU who footed the bill.

During my two hour visit, the ‘quality garden’ felt more like a cemetery. I must admit though I saw one cabbage white and one red admiral butterfly, about a score of sparrows, and half a dozen people!

Staring aimlessly, I could see a blue fat cow

Staring aimlessly, I could see a blue fat cow dotted with yellow stars

I looked at this ‘quality garden’ from the heavily frequented professionally planned, though miserably managed, Howard Gardens above. I stared aimlessly, and could see a blue fat cow dotted with yellow stars, in a grab, suck dry and go project. I can never come to terms with professionals claiming integrity who are on the wrong side of a decision. When wrong becomes right, nothing can be wrong anymore, and once this gathers momentum, nothing can stop it. Regrettably this mentality is gathering momentum at a very fast rate.

“The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second”. (John Steinbeck, novelist, Nobel laureate (1902-1968).

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


IR-RABJA TAR­-RABTIN… u bir-­raġun

March 10, 2014

 NewsBook

It-Tnejn, 10 ta’ Marzu, 23014

IR­-RABTIN IRRABJATI… u bir-­raġun

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Howard-Gardens

Ritratt: Joseph Sultana

Wieħed mill­-karatteristiċi tar-­Rabat huwa l­-ġnien Howard li hemm qabel ma tidħol l-Imdina. Dan il­-ġnien, kontra kif jaħsbu xi wħud, huwa msemmi għal Malti John Howard, li twieled il-­Belt fl­-1862. Kien Prim Ministru ta’ Malta bejn 1921 u 1923.

Joseph-howard-prime-minister

Joseph Howard
(1862 – 1925)

Il-­ġnien huwa maqsum fi tnejn: dak il­-kbir u dak iż­-żgħir jew kif jafuh xi wħud, il­-ġnien tas-­salib. Dawk li huma tal­-età tiegħi u huma mir­-Rabat, jiftakru ż-żgħożija tagħhom f’dan il-­ġnien mal­-ġenituri tagħhom jilgħabu b’xi ballun, jew bir­-rota jduru man­-numru ta’ ħammiela li madwarhom il-­ġnien huwa mfassal. Dawk akbar fl-età kont tarahom jippassiġġaw matul il­-mgħodija ewlenija li tħares għal fuq il-foss tal-Imdina. Ħafna b’għajnejhom mixgħulin iħarsu lejn xi ġuvni jew xi tfajla biex jisirqu xi tbissima jew jiġbdu xi ħarsa. Kienu ġranet sbieħ, b’dawk fuq l-għoxrin li jkun irnexxilhom jagħmlu ħbieb, fuq xi bank taħt xi siġra jitkellmu fil-widnejn, kif dawk żgħar kienu jaħsbu. Żmien ta’ innoċenza u żmien sabiħ li llum tar mar-­riħ.

Għalkemm issa ili nieqes mir-­Rabat aktar minn ħamsin sena, xorta nagħmel żjara lil dan il-­ġnien kull meta nista’ biex niftakar f’dawk il­­-ġranet sbieħ ta’ żgħożiti. Imma kull darba li nmur hemm nitlaq lura bi qsim il-­qalb. Spiċċaw dawk il­-ħammiliet kollha fjuri msoqqija u mnaqqija bi mħabba u b’għira. Spiċċaw dawk il-ħwat mimlijin ilma bil-­­ħut fihom. Saħansitra anki għebu dawk is-­siġar tal-palm xjuħ li nqerdu mill­-Bumunqar Aħmar tal­-Palm, wara deċiżjonijiet politiċi żbaljati li wittew it-­triq biex dan fl-­2007 daħal fil­-gżejjer Maltin.

Il-fdalijiet-ta'-siġra-tal-palm (A E Baldacchino)


Waħda mill-ħafna fdalijiet ta’ siġar tal-palm li llum wieħed jista’ jara fil-ġnien Howard (A E Baldacchino)

Bħallikieku dan mhux biżżejjed dan l-­aħħar dan il­-ġnien waqa’ vittma ta’ deċiżjonijiet, ma nistax ma nsejħilhomx stupidi, mingħajr ebda viżjoni ta’ tfassil u mmanniġar professjonali. Fit-­2 ta’ Marzu, ħarget  l-aħbar fuq il-blog Rabti https://www.facebook.com/groups/rabatmalta/   fejn r-Rabti Joseph Sultana,  poġġa ritratt ta’ kif dan il-­ġnien ġie mżeblaħ u abbużat. U r­Rabtin qamu f’daqqa u għajtu b’għajta f’rabja Rabtija, li ma ridux minn ikasbarhom u ma ridux min jgħaddi ż­-żmien bihom.

Żrar-fil-ġnien


Żrar li ntefa’ fuq il-ħamrija minflok l-imlieqa biex il-Kunsill tal-Imdina jsebbaħ l-art (Ritratt: Joseph Sultana)

Ħaġa li la jiena u lanqas numru ta’ Rabtin oħra ma jistgħu jifhmu hija kif dan il­-ġnien huwa taħt ir­-responsabbiltà tal-­Kunsill Lokali tal-Imdina, meta dan huwa barra mis­-swar. U ħaga oħra li tweġġa ħafna lil Rabtin hija kif dan il­-Kunsill tal-Imdina, minn wara s­-swar jidher li huwa maqtugħ mill­-ħajja f’dawn l­-inħawi tar­-Rabat, qabad u ddeċieda, wara li ftiehem kif qal is­-segretarju eżekuttiv tal­-Kunsill, ma’ studenti minn Istitut tal-­agrikoltura Franċiż. Dawn iddeċiedew li jaqalgħu parti mill-imlieqa (jiġifieri l-­hedges) li jdawru l­-ġnien u li l­-Kunsill qal li huma ħajt, jgħattu l­-ħamrija bil­-plastik, jiksu dan il-­plastik biż­-żrar, u jħawwlu kaktus u sukkulenti oħra, li skont il­-kelliemi tal­-Kunsill Lokali tal­-Imdina, huma pjanti indiġeni, jiġifieri pjanti Maltin. Minn fejn ġab dan it-­tagħrif xjentifiku żbaljat il-kelliem għall­-Kunsill Lokali tal­-Imdina ma nafx. U ma naħsebx li ġabu minn Franza lanqas, għaliex kieku dawn kienu jifhmu fil­-biodiversità u mhux ċwieċ kif-intqal, kienu

kaktus-indiġenu-kif-intqal

Skont il-pariri li ngħata l-Kunsill Lokali tal-Imdina, dawn il-kaktus huma kollha speci indiġeni Maltin
(Ritratti: Joseph Sultana)

jgħidulu li dawn mhumiex pjanti Maltin. U kif il-­kelliem għall­-Kunsill Lokali tal­-­Imdina qal ukoll, hemm il­-ħsieb li dan jitkompla s-­sena d-dieħla biex il­­ġnien iż­-żgħir jiddawwar b’dan iż-­żrar, bil­-għajununa tal­-konsulenza barranija, bi flus Maltin, u bi pjanti barranin, u mingħajr bdil ta’ fehmiet mar-Rabtin.

Lili weġġgħani l­-kliem tar-­rapreżentant tal-­Kunsill tal-­Imdina fejn ġie allegat li qal li min ma jifhimx aħjar ma jitkellimx, għax dan ix­-xogħol mhux isir minn xi ċuċ. Imma min qal li l-­kaktus imħawwel huwa indiġenu, dan jifhem ħafna u ara wieħed ma jaħsebx li huwa xi ċuċ.

Li jweġġa’ lir­-Rabtin f’din l-­affari kollha huwa li l-­Kunsill tal-­Imdina ma kellux il-ħeġġa u l-għaqal biex jitkellem ma’ dawk li għandhom interess f’dan il­-ġnien skedat u jara x’jaħsbu, kemm b’mod ġenerali l-Maltin, kif ukoll aktar u aktar ir-­Rabtin li jqisu li dan il-­ġnien huwa tagħhom. Imma saru diskuzzjonijiet, ftehim u finanzjar ta’ dan il-progett ma’ studenti barranin, mingħajr ma ġew diskussi ma’ ħadd.

Aktar u aktar is-­skiet tal­-Kunsill tar-­Rabat, li meta ra u sema’ bir­-rabja tar-­Rabtin, li wara kollox kienu huma li poġġewhom hemm, huma ta’ liema partit huma, biex iħarsu l-­interessi tar-­Rabat, baqgħu friski bħal ħassa. Ma fethux ħalqhom, sallum għall-­anqas. U mid­-dehra l­-Kunsill tal-­Imdina u l-­Kunsill tar­-Rabat jimxu id f’id għaliex dak tal­-Imdina baqa’ sieket, wisq probabli b’idejn waħda fuq għajnejh u fuq widnejh u bl-­oħra fuq ħalqu, u ma tniffsux fuq l­-istragi li saret fil-­foss tal-­Imdina, minkejja l­-protesti tar­-Rabtin. U anki dak tar­-Rabat baqa’ sieket mhux biss fil­-proġett tal-­foss tal-Imdina, imma anki meta s­-siġar ta’ fuq is-Saqqajja ġabhuhom aktar jixbhu arbli tad-­dawl milli siġar. Issa wkoll qisu ma qed jiġri xejn minkejja r­-rabja Rabtija. Kunsilli Lokali bħal dawn ma naħsebx li jistgħu jkunu kburin bil­kisbiet tagħhom, aktar u aktar meta dawn ma jinżlux tajjeb ma’ minn poġġiehom hemm.  Il-Kunsilli, kif jixhdu oħrajn ħabrieka madwar Malta u Għawdex, mhux qegħdin hemm biex jingħalqu bejn erba’ ħitan, ġo kamra wara s-swar, jew biex jirritaw ir-­residenti tal­-lokal jew tal-­lokalitajiet ġirien.  Hemm bżonn li kunsilli bħal dawn joħorġu minn wara s-­swar, kemm dawk fiżiċi, kif ukoll dawk psikoloġiċi, u jimxu id f’id mar­-residienti u l­-ġirien jekk iridu għarfien tax-xogħol tagħhom.

Imma kull azzjoni għanda reazjzoni kif jgħidu, u din narawha anki fil-qasam soċiologiku. Dan ġara meta l­-mexxejja, f’dan il-­każ dawk tal-lokal, agħżlu li jinqatgħu minn nies. Naraw li minn qalb in­-nies nibtu dawk li ma kienux jistgħu jifiħu aktar għal din l-­apatija u xogħolijiet li ma jaqblux magħhom. U hekk ġara wkoll hawn. Tliet Rabtin, Joseph Sultana, Karistu Abela, u Chris Farrugia, haduha fuqhom biex ma jħallux din il-­ħsara ambjentali tkompli ssir, qisu ma kien qed jiġri xejn fir­-Rabat, u r-Rabtin irrabjati mingħajr għajnuna minn ħadd. Għamlu kumitat ta’ azzjoni u marru jippreżentaw ittra f’Kastilja nhar il­-Ħamis 7 ta’ Marzu.

Ma nistax ma nistaqsiex ukoll. Xi tgħid il­-MEPA li hija il­-kelb tal­-għassa dwar affarijiet ambjentali? Veru li kważi sa tagħlaq sena lid-Direttorat tal-­Ambjent għadu mhux taħt ir-­responsabbiltà tal-Minsteru responsabbli għall­-Ambjent u jidher li qishom qed iħossuhom  li r­responsabbiltà ambjentali mhux tagħhom. Imma r­-responabbiltà ambjentali għada tal­-MEPA kollha kemm hi. Xi kultant, b’dispjaċir kbir u kontra qalbi ngħid u nħoss li qisha ­kelb tal-­għassa bħal dawk li hemm biswit fil-kura tal-SPCA. Dawn ma jitniffsu xejn sakemm xi ħadd iħabbat fuq il-­bieb. Nispera li l-MEPA tieħu azzjoni wara dan it-­taħbit kollu fuq biebha dwar ir­-responsabbiltà tagħha għall-ħarsien tal-ambjent, li sa xħin qed nikteb għadha ma qalet xejn lanqas.

Jiena konvint li wara ż­-żjara tar­-Rabtin f’Kastillja, nisimgħu minn għand il-­MEPA. B’din it­-taħbita ma jistgħux ma jqumux mill­-apatija li għandhom lejn il-­ħarsien tal­-ambjent ta’ pajjiżna, li mingħajr dubju huwa tagħna lkoll.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

 


The ‘garden’ at Mdina Ditch officially inaugurated

March 7, 2013

times

The ‘garden’ at Mdina Ditch officially inaugurated

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Thursday, 7th March, 2013.

 So the ‘open space’ in the Mdina ditch, or the ‘garden’ from where close to 300 trees, mainly citrus trees, olive trees, and cypress trees were uprooted and carted away, was finally officially opened by the Prime Minister on Wednesday 6 March, 2013. According to The Times  of 6 March, 2013 “None of the trees have been lost but they have been rearranged so as to help one get a better understanding of the bastions “. Honestly, I pity the Prime Minster for being pushed in the front line for such official openings, as if to shoulder the responsibility of the decisions taken by his subordinates. But anyhow, it is his decision.

On Wednesday morning I visited the Mdina ditch to see this seventh wonder of an ‘open space’ in a ditch, or this ‘garden’. I must say that the restored bastions look superb after years of neglect, though I still cannot understand how the decimated trees in the ditch or the ivy covering the Howard Garden wall, in any way interfered with their majesty. The bastions are as exposed as they were before, though restored, and still showing the majesty they showed before.

2013.03.06 - Laurel trees replacing citrus trees

Citrus trees which died replaced by imported Laurel trees.

I walked in Howard Gardens along the ditch. The expanse of concrete today make up more than half this ‘garden’ or ‘open space’; the rest is taken by turf. The citrus trees which were uprooted and replanted were all leafless.  Those which had any leaves were those which were not uprooted and left in place. Not only were the replaced citrus trees leafless, but some had also given up the ghost, and were replaced by imported Laurel or Bay Trees.  I could count up to 30 of these.

Wonder of wonders in this new ‘garden’ were a number of potted Laurel trees. So while established protected trees such as an 80-year-old protected olive tree were uprooted and carted away, it was found necessary to introduce imported Laurel trees in pots in this ‘garden’!

2013.03.06 - Laurel trees in pots in the garden

Laurel trees in pots in the garden

Reminiscing the natural habitat in the ditch before such destruction, I walked along the railings overlooking the ditch with heavy feet as I contemplated the ecological destruction beneath. I could not reconcile the expanse of turf with the historical bastions. I thought about the cost of such imported turf.  I also tried to figure the commercial cost of the rare resource of water needed to water such an area of turf. Along my walk, the path was full of ministry vehicles, engines, and a generator, including all the electrical and electronic paraphernalia both attached to the railing and also in the ditch. I tried to convince myself that I was not walking back in history when Malta was celebrating the granting of independence with such a fanfare. I tried to imagine the cost involved in such ‘celebrations’. I tried to see how one could get some information on such waste of public money and also EU funds.

2013.03.06 - THE BLACK MARBLE PLAQUE - 3

Concrete, turf and the tomb stone in the ‘garden’

I finally arrived at the other end of the ditch near Saqqajja. And wow… wow… what a cherry on the cake. In the ditch beneath the playing fields I saw a large black cuboid. I first thought it was some electronic equipment covered in black plastic for protection to be used for the evening celebrations.  But as I looked closer, I realised it was a black marble plaque which easily dwarfed the citrus trees in the vicinity, those “which have been rearranged so as to help one get a better understanding of the bastions.”

I focused my camera lens on the writing on this plaque.  On one face it read: “Il­-proġett sar mid­-Direttorat tar­-Restawr tal­-Ministeru għar­-Riżorsi u l­-Affarijiet Rurali taħt id­-direzzjoni tal­-Onor. George Pullicino”. (This project was undertaken by the Restoration Directorate of the Ministry of Resources and Rural Affairs under the direction of the Hon. George Pullicino). I moved on and focused on the other façade of the cuboid where there was another inscription which read: “Dan il-­ġnien fil­-Foss tal­-Imdina jgħaqqad il­-passaġġ tal-­istorja ta’ pajjiżna mal-­preżent u l­-futur” (This garden in the Mdina Ditch connects the passage of history of our country with the present and the future).  The writing on the plague finally declares this project as a garden. Such a plague is more of a tomb stone clearly showing how the future will look at the present which has placed the past in such an artificial environment. The number of concrete passages will make it relatively easy to arrive at such a conclusion. And the good thing about it is that it is autographed by the director of such a project.

2013.03.06 - THE BLACK MARBLE PLAQUE - 2

The black marble plaque

I invite all to go and have a look at it. A photo near the tomb stone would be quite historic in the future.

This justifies my previous writings on this project (see links below).  It lacks any ecological vision for any garden. Its main aim was just commercially orientated.

FURTHER READING and photos

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/qerda-tal-biodiversita-fil-foss-tal-imdina-biex-isir-gnien-ta-kwalita/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/environmentalists-vs-government-over-trees/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/once-there-were-green-leaves/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/massacre-of-mdina-ditch-trees-is-the-eu-really-involved/


Let’s hide our face in shame following further news on trees – 1

November 20, 2012

            Let’s hide our face in shame following further news on trees – 1

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Two recent articles published in the Times during November are clearly in line with the above quote by philosopher Schopenhauer. Two articles penned by two MEPA officials: the Director of the Environment Protection Directorate and an eminent gentlemen on the MEPA’s board.

The number of letters appearing in the media and on various blogs  complaining, criticising and disapproving  the mismanagement of trees, to put it mildly, embarrassed the Minister and his watchdog responsible for the protection,  communication, education and public awareness, to the extent that they have become almost isolated.  So MEPA have gone to the front line to dispel such complaints and belittle such criticism.

The first article Further notes on trees by MEPA’s  Director of the Environment Protection Directorate  was published on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 (see article on link below).

Conservationists and environmentalists were advised that “Overly high-pitched reactions to any discussion about trees could have the longer-term undesirable effect of discouraging some people from planting more trees on their properties”. Could this perhaps refer to the Nadur Cemetery which is threatening the livelihood of a community of farmers who cultivate hundreds of citrus trees in Wied il-Qasab because of MEPA’s approval for the construction of a cemetery?  Could it be a reference to MEPA’s postponement and postponement of an appeal’s decision while the building of the cemetery is still going on nearing completion? Or could it be  a reference to MEPA’s approval of the uprooting (except for 3) of all the trees in the Mdina Ditch including an 80+ year old olive tree, a dozen of  Cyprus trees, and nearly all the citrus trees and the indigenous wild ivy? Or perhaps to the latest MEPA permit for the building in part of an old garden in Villa Meckrech – Tas-Sinjura,  Għaxaq? Or perhaps due to the lack of public consultations with regards to the present mismanagemnt of trees in the islands?

The appeal regarding this developmend has been postponed and postponed and postponed by MEPA.
In the meantime works at the cemterey have continued. Not only so but during November 2012, the cemtery has been surrounded by a wall. Is it possible that MEPA has issued a permit for such a development? And if not, why has it not taken any action?

 Readers were also informed that  “the overall total amount of trees in Malta has increased significantly over the last decades” and “Trees were mainly planted in walled gardens, orchards, fields and some hunting grounds. It was during the British period that trees began to be planted more widely in urban public spaces and along roads.”  Which of these trees can be considered safe today under the present MEPA’s policy, vision of development and the shallow understanding of ecosystems? The above three examples clearly indicate that none  are safe.

 “Afforestation projects carried out by both the government and environmental NGOs have planted thousands of trees in recent years.”  Very true but what kind of trees are being planted, and how were these planted? The 34U campaign has come to  mean more a Tree for Uprooting considering that the aim is more to boast about the quantity of trees (as highlighted in the quote above) rather than the quality and professionalism used. These have been planted so close to each other that they need to be thinned out if they are to grow and form a canopy.  Some of them have to be uprooted. Besides what kind of trees are being planted? Most of them are imported, some are  exotic and even invasive, to the extent that the number of aliens species being imported is alarming. This despite the fact that MEPA is the  authority responsible to ensure that this should  not happen.

With regards to the criticism  regarding the uprooting of Paola square trees, MEPA said that “In this case, the final decision on whether the Paola trees will be uprooted now rests with the local council.” Does this mean that a permit will be issued by MEPA for uprooting these trees if the Paola Local Council decides so? Has MEPA renounced its responsibility for the protection of trees in Malta?

With regards to the Mdina Ditch fiasco, MEPA’s official wrote that “The cultural heritage experts advising on the project gave priority to enhancing the view of the historic bastions and ditch, which are unique, rather than the citrus trees which are far from unique and can be moved. On the other hand, other persons gave more importance to the citrus trees growing in the ditch, which have no relevance to the historic bastions but which have been there for some time and which people had become accustomed to enjoying. An outcry ensued. It was a question of perspective.”

 I am sorry to say that this is side-tracking the whole issue.  The citrus trees were not the main concern.  The greatest concerns were the uprooting of protected olive trees, one more than 80 years old (with MEPA’s endorsement), the destruction of the ecological habitat formed by the ivy growing on the side of the Howard Gardens, the amount of turf which will be planted, the amount of water which this will take, the dancing water fountains (which have no relevance to the historic bastions), the excavation of water cisterns which do not figure in the MEPA permit for the works in the ditch. All this with MEPA approval? A question of perspective or an overly high-pitched reaction!

“Ficus nitida can however be inconvenient when situated very close to benches and popular recreational spots, due to their small dark fruit which covers the ground in certain seasons, and their attraction to birds which can lead to a considerable amount of bird droppings – as seen, for instance, in the square outside the Gozo Ministry in Rabat.”

porofessional management

Dingli Local Council’s solution –
the birds can poo to their heart’s content; the tree can shed its leaves without concern, and the people can sit and gossip all day and all night long.
MEPA’s solution – chop the tree down and  the bill will be paid from public funds.

Established trees form part of an ecosystem and IF there is a problem this is not solved by cutting down the trees to keep the birds away. Why not move the   benches in the first place, for example?  Such a statement coming from MEPA vindicates those who maintain that the Environment Directorate and the Planning Directorate should never be together because MEPA still does not understand what an ecosystem means.  Some local council have managed to solve this problem which MEPA, for some reason or other, has not even dreamt of.

The article concluded by a reference to the National Environment Policy emphasising that

“Its implementation requires no less than a gradual cultural shift, across the board.”

So very true. Such a cultural shift is desperately and urgently needed especially by MEPA who has been entrusted with the protection of the natural heritage, as obliged by the various international conventions, not least those of the EU, and also by a  number of national legislation. This is urgently needed if the Government’s and MEPA’s nicely coloured publications, including the National Environment Policy, were not published  just to adorn the bookshelves of history. And unfortunately this and the other article referred to (which I will comment on in another post) do not guarantee that such a cultural shift is in site at all by the authority who has been entrusted to protect such a heritage in the people’s name.

MEPA’s  online article in The Times  can be accessed on:

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20121113/opinion/Further-notes-on-trees.445157

OTHER RELATED READINGS:

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/the-nadur-cemetery-%E2%80%93-where-the-dead-will-haunt-and-curse-the-living/?preview=true&preview_id=374&preview_nonce=df7e841c61

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/massacre-of-mdina-ditch-trees-is-the-eu-really-involved/?preview=true&preview_id=1050&preview_nonce=3835a76b71

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/trees-open-letter-to-the-prime-minister/?preview=true&preview_id=1375&preview_nonce=5e0a18cf49

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/once-there-were-green-leaves/?preview=true&preview_id=1182&preview_nonce=a98051a563

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/qerda-tal-biodiversita-fil-foss-tal-imdina-biex-isir-gnien-ta-kwalita/?preview=true&preview_id=1266&preview_nonce=9544b7e2f7

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/environmentalists-vs-government-over-trees/?preview=true&preview_id=1138&preview_nonce=7ada24a171

 


Qerda tal-biodiversità fil-foss tal-Imdina… biex isir ġnien ta’ kwalità!

September 28, 2012

Dan l-aħħar qrajna u smajna stqarrijiet minn Ministru tal-Gvern dwar ġonna ta’ kwalità u spazji miftuħa għall-familji.

Meta wieħed jaqra u jisma’ l-kummenti ta’ dan il-Ministru tal-Gvern li huwa responsabbli minn dawn il-proġetti, wieħed mill-ewwel jifhem għaliex illum il-qerda tal-ambjent naturali hija daqstant kbira. U wieħed ma jistax ma jistaqsiex numru ta’ misoqsijiet, bħal ngħidu aħna:

  1. Bliema immaġinazzjoni jista’ xi ħadd jgħid li sejjer jagħmel ġnien ta’ kwalità u fl-istess ħin jaqla’ u jeqred ammont kbir ta’ sigar b’impatt kbir fuq il-biodiversità tal post?  (ara ritratti aktar l-isfel).
  2. Kif jista’ wieħed jgħid li sejjer jagħmel ġnien ta’ kwalità u fl-istess ħin jiksi l-post b’medda wiesgħa ta’ konkos; konkos aktar milli hemm u aktar milli kien hemm siġar qabel ma beda x-xogħol? (ara ritratti aktar l-isfel)
  3. Liema raġuni xjentifika tiġġustifika li biex isir ġnien ta’ kwalità titqaxxar u tinqered il-liedna kollha li kien hemm fil-post u li kienet tħaddar u tiksi metri kwadri kbar tal-ħajt tal-ġnien Howard Gardens (mhux mal-ħajt tas-sur) u li kienet toffri ambjent naturali għall-numru ta’ fawna indiġena? Din kienet ukoll issebbaħ u tgħati l-ħajja lill-kull ġnien anki jekk mhux ta’ kwalità. U dan minkejja li l-Gvern ta’ Malta huwa obbligat u marbut mill-Unjoni Ewropea biex jara li jieħu miżuri biex ma tkomplix tinqered il-biodiversità tal-Unjoni Ewropea li aħna parti minnha. Il-Ministri tal-Ambjent (anki dawk li jgħidu li xi darba kienu Ministri tal-Ambjent) din kollha jafuha, kemm mid-dokumenti tal-UE li jirċevu, kif ukoll mill-laqgħat tal-Kunsill tal-Ministri li jattendu.

Fid-diskors tiegħu fil-video li deher fil-ġurnal The Times

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120918/local/mdina-ditch-being-transformed-into-quality-garden.437446

dan il-Ministru qal li ma nqerdux siġar.  Jekk wieħed iħares lejn ir-ritratti hawn mehmuża, waħdu jasal f’konklużjoni waħda.

  1. Kif jista’ xi ħadd jgħid li dan ix-xogħol qed jerġa jieħu dan il-post għall-ġranet passati tal-glorja tiegħu?  Sa fejn naf jien fi żmien l-Għarab u l-Kavallieri ma kienux jużaw konkos (sakemm xi perit ma jikkoreġinix!) li llum huwa l-aktar ħaġa li tispikka f’dan il-ġnien (u ġonna oħra simili) ta’ kwalità. Lanqas kienu jiżirgħu turf  għax l-ilma għalihom kien jiswa mitqlu deheb, u lanqas kienu jagħmlu ilma ħiereġ jiżfen mill-art!  U lanqas ma kienu jużaw lift biex jinżlu mis-swar għall-foss. Jidher li l-Għarab u l-Kavallieri li ħakmu pajjiżna tant għexieren ta’ snin ilu, kellhom viżjoni ferm u ferm aktar professjonali, ekonomika, soċjali, ambjentali u sostenibbli milli għandhom il-mexxejja politiċi Maltin tal-lum, minkejja li dak iż-żmien ma kienx hemm obbligi ambjentali internazzjonali bħal ma għandna llum u lanqas kellhom Ministri tal- Ambjent.
  2. Ir-Rabtin u l-ġirien tagħhom  ma għandhomx bżonn xi politku li ma għandu l-ebda idea ta’ xi tfisser biodiversità biex jgħamillhom ġnien ta’ kwalità! U lanqas għandhom bżonn spazji miftuħa għall-familji għax għandhom biżżejjed spazji miftuha. Żgur li ma għandhomx bżonn ta’ spazju miftuħ ġo foss. U jekk kien hemm il-ħsieb li dan il-foss jinfetaħ għal kulħadd, kull ma kien hemm bżonn kien  li jitneħħew il-katnazzi li kienu jsakkru l-bibien li jgħalqu l-aċċess għal kulħadd. Li kieku dan id-diskors jintqal lill-kostitwenti ta’ min qalhom, li llum huma ferm u ferm konxji mill-ambjent naturali u l-qerda li l-konkos qed jagħmel lil dan l-ambjent, żgur li kienu jibgħatuh jistgħad biex forsi jaqbad xi mazzun!
  3. Imma veru li biex tagħmel ġnien ta’ kwalità illum l-ingredjenti huma: a) konkos; b) turf; c) ilma jiżfen; d)  issa anki lift; u e) l-qerda tal-biodiversità tal-post kollha, kif sar fil-foss tal-Imdina u f’kull hekk imsejjaħ ġnien ieħor li qed isir mill-istess ministeru?
  4. Ħarsa lejn il-kummenti li kien hemm fil-gazzetti f’dawn il-links

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120918/local/mdina-ditch-being-transformed-into-quality-garden.437446

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120919/local/Mdina-ditch-returned-to-glory.437501

u fir-ritratti li ħadt jien stess u li wħud minnhom jidhru hawn taħt, kollha jitkellmu u juru  d-disastru li sar bi flus pubbliċi u b’dawk tal-Unjoni Ewropea.

  1. Forsi hawnhekk ta’ minn jistaqsi minn qed jamministra l-fondi tal-UE, f’dan il-kas il-European Regional Development Fund?  Min qiegħed jawditjahom? Fejn jista’ l-pubbliku jara rendikont tal-infiq?
  2. Barra minhekk, minn qiegħed jara li jkun hemm diskussjoni pubblika fuq il-proġetti biex b’hekk ikun involut iċ-ċittadin fid-deċiżjoni, qabel jintefqu dawn il-flus? Dan ukoll huwa fost l-obbligi li titlob l-UE.
  3. Jiddispjaċini ngħid li l-ħsara li qed issir lill-biodiversità Maltija bi proġetti bħal dawn, bi skuża ta’ ġonna ta’ kwalità u spazji miftuħa għall-familji, trid aktar minn ġenerazzjoni biex titranġa.
  4. Dan il-ġnien sejjer ikollu kwalità waħda …. dik ta’  mafkar ta’ kif l-ambjent naturali qed jiġi sfruttat u mżeblaħ f’dawn l-aħħar snin, mingħajr ebda mistħija u ebda mgħodrija.
  5. Fl-aħħarnett min huma l-konsulenti tal-Ministru li huwa responsabbli biex jaraw li dan ix-xogħol ikun wieħed sostenibbli, jiġifieri li ma ssirx ħsara ekonomika, ħsara soċjali u ħsara ekoloġika kif qed issir?
  6. Nismagħhom jgħidu li hawn Malta kollox possibli, imma ma naħsebx li hawn xi ħadd li sab kif jgħatti x-xemx bl-għarbiel, għalkemm hawm min qed jipprova u qed jagħmel ħiltu kollha.

ARA WKOLL

http://www.orizzont.com.mt/Issues/19092012/social/article95864.html

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120918/local/mdina-ditch-being-transformed-into-quality-garden.437446

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120919/local/Mdina-ditch-returned-to-glory.437501

http://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/environmentali…ent-over-trees

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/once-there-were-green-leaves/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/massacre-of-md…eally-involved/

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/government-policy-on-trees/

iL-BIODIVERSITA’   SINJURA TA’ QABEL BEDA X-XOGĦOL FIL-FOSS TAL-IMDINA U L-KWALITA’ TA’ QERDA LI SARET MINN META BEDA X-XOGĦOL FUQ IL-ĠNIEN TA’ KWALITA’

QABEL – Ringiela ta’ siġar taċ-Cipress li kienu jiffurmaw parti mill-biodiversità

WARA – L-unika siġra taċ-Cipress li baqa’ – MEJTA. L-oħrajn kollha nqalgħu u nqerdu. Ikun interessanti kieku l-esperti tal-Ministru jgħidulna kif mietet din is-siġra, jew aħjar jekk inqatletx b’xi kumbinazzjoni!  Ma naħsebx li issa sejjer ikun hemm xi ħadd li tniggżu l-kuxjenza biex jaqla’ siġra mejta, meta nqalgħu tant u tant siġar ħajjin minn dan il-post .

QABEL – ambjent naturali sinjur

WARA – parti mill- ġnien ta’ kwalità – anqas biodiversità, aktar konkos!

WARA – liedna  meqruda fil-ġnien ta’ kwalità

WARA – siġar taċ-Ċipress maqlugħa, meqruda  u mitfuha fl-art biex jagħmlu wisa għall-ġnien ta’ kwalità.

WARA – fdalijiet tas-siġar mejta taċ-Ċipress taħt it-tabella tal-Ministeru li qed jagħmel ġnien ta’ kwalità

QABEL U WARA – id-dehra tal-foss ftit wara li beda x-xogħol fuq il-ġnien ta’ kwalità.  Is-siġar immarkata b’salib isfar kollha ġew meqruda, jew maqlugħa.

WARA – post għeri mill-biodiversità fi ġnien ta’ kwalità fejn jispikka l-konkos u l-għibien tas-sigar li qabel kienu jżejnu dan il-post.

It-tabella imwarrba u mitluqa fl-art li madankollu turi l-għajuna finanzjarja li qed tgħati l-EU mill-European Regional Development Fund, għar-restawr tal-post, li qed isir fost oħrajn bit-tneħħija tal-biodiversità u kisi bil-konkos.


Once there were green leaves

July 31, 2012

maltastar

Tuesday, 31st July 2012

Once there were green leaves

Alfred E. Baldacchino

It is indeed of great satisfaction to see such a strong public awareness towards the appreciation of nature, also expressed towards the need for more protection and appreciation of trees. Such tree-appreciation includes the trees’ aesthetic, social, ecological, educational and intrinsic values. Unfortunately and regrettably, the greatest hurdle towards the achievement of such noble aims is the present policy being implemented by government.

With regret one sees and reads of hundreds of established trees being heavily pruned and deprived of any form of a tree and its majesty. The pruning and uprooting of trees, irrespective of the appropriate season, is being undertaken for a number of childish, amateurish reasons, such as that they are harmful to buildings, they attract birds which poo on the benches beneath, they are obscuring the view from people’s houses, they are dropping their leaves in front of people’s doors, and they are a pest. In most cases these are replaced with new exotic imported trees.  One must however, admit that there are instances where some trees need to be transplanted because of justifiable reasons, though not including any of the above.

Nobody responsible for landscaping in the islands, whether political or private, seems to officially appreciate the fact that trees contribute to control carbon dioxide and add oxygen to the air. They are also barriers to noise, and to the many obnoxious fumes and emissions with which our life is daily and increasingly exposed to. But a Lilliputian mentality unfortunately prevails, dominated by commercial gains. And what is more alarming and worrying, is that the destructive mentality is officially endorsed and publicly financed, sometimes even by European funds.

One of the projects which today tops the list of this poor, destructive mentality is the works going on at the Mdina ditch. It only tops the list because a similar project, about six years ago which was initiated at Buskett, a Natura 2000 site, was stopped in time by MEPA and Buskett was saved by the skin of its teeth, though some wounds still show.

Those who hail from Rabat and Mdina, and those who frequent this historical area have over the years benefited from the past professional landscapers with real love and understanding of the natural environment. Howard Gardens is a perfect example of a garden with short winding paths among the surrounding greenery, and also open spaces. The ditch was later planted with around 400 citrus trees, about a dozen Cyprus trees, adding to a dozen of old olive trees, and a majestic old Holm Oak. The latter guarded the left hand side entrance to Mdina, while and old Olive Tree stood on the right

Following such a government approved project paid by public and European funds, more than half the citrus trees, were uprooted when in bloom, and carted away. Only two Cyprus trees and two olive trees are now left. Even the old majestic Olive tree guarding Mdina Gate, was first fiercely pruned, and then uprooted and also carted away.  Such pruning and uprooting needed the endorsement of MEPA considering the age of the Olive tree. I very much doubt if MEPA has given its green light to uproot this protected tree. Yet the Lilliputian mentality backed by official authority had the last say.

(left) the remains of the once majestic, protected, old Olive Tree, waiting to be uprooted and carted away. (right) the moribund citrus tree, uprooted from a few meters away, which replaced the majestic protected old Olive Tree.

Initially it was said that the place was going to be transformed into a garden. The general public asked how one can plan to make a garden and in the process uproot scores of trees. Now it is being said that the place is going to be transformed into an open space for the family, as an advertisement board at the entrance of HowardGardens depicts. Most of the ditch area has already been covered in concrete, more concrete than tree-cover. And more and more areas, some previously covered with trees, will be used. Some of the citrus trees, all in bloom, were uprooted to be planted again a couple of metres away, in a regimental line-up.  It was also officially said that most of the area would be planted with turf, and there would also be water fountains! Considering the local climate, the eventual rise in temperature because of climate change, the heavy demand expected for water both by the general public and also by agriculture, one indeed shudders to think how government failed to foresee this and how such maintenance would negatively impact the island, both from a social, economical and ecological point of view.

One of the destructive actions which hurt me beyond any healing was the scraping and removing of Ivy (Liedna – an indigenous, Maltese wild species). This covered a substantial part of the boundary concrete wall along Howard Gardens, and the garden wall opposite the bastions. It was such a site to see, aesthetically pleasing, an adequate habitat for local rare fauna, especially some rare indigenous moths. Hailing from Rabat, I have seen this beautiful, majestic free nature’s gift, grow over the last 15 years or so. And yet, in about 15 hours or so it was gone, completely gone. The regulator (Government) and the operator (ELC) in their wisdom, which is neither accepted nor understood at all by nature lovers and biodiversity conservationists, decided to eliminate it completely. It would without any doubt have been an added asset to any project in the ditch, both if the area beneath is going to be turned into a garden, or if the area is going to become an open space for the family. What a pity, what a shame, what lack of ecological appreciation and awareness. It reminds me of 1970 when the ivy at Buskett was similarly and systematically removed and eliminated. The same mind is behind both destructions. No wonder that people have started to believe that government hates trees.

The indigenous Ivy adorning the boundary wall overlooking the Mdina ditch

Howard Gardens boundary wall cleared from Ivy

The accompanying photos shows nature’s gifts with all their beauty, which the private landscapers, paid by government were authorised to destroy. It also shows the greedy hands and the lack of biodiversity

The Mdina Ditch covered in rich greenery offering a natural habitat to both flora and fauna

Ivy and the natural habitat completely destroyed

appreciation.  The questions being asked are: When is the natural ecological beauty of these islands going to be positively appreciated? When shall environmental projects also take into consideration the economic, social and ecological aspect, and not be assessed just from the commercial point of view? When shall the people be heard and be able to contribute to the positive national development of our country?  When is government going to show real appreciation of trees. When shall we grow up? Unfortunately the destructive public-financed works at Mdina Ditch, besides others, show that despite EU membership, EU obligations and EU financial help, we still have a long, long way to go.

see also 

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/environmentalists-vs-government-over-trees/

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com

Alfred E. Baldacchino has a M.Sc. in Environmental Planning and Management