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




IS-­SIĠAR BARRANIN… l­-impatt dirett tagħhom.

January 30, 2014


IS­-SIĠAR BARRANIN… l­-impatt dirett tagħhom.

Alfred E. Baldacchino

L-­aħħar li tkellimna kien fuq id-­differenza bejn is-­siġar indiġeni Maltin, u s-­siġar li mhumiex indiġeni Maltin. Is­-siġar indiġeni Maltin huma dawk is­-siġar li minn dejjem kienu jikbru f’dawn il­-gżejjer. Dan, b’mod sempliċi, huwa l-­istess bħal mal-­lingwa Maltija hija lingwa indiġena tal­-gżejjer Maltin, u bħalma l­-Ġappuniż huwa lingwa indiġena tal-Ġappun.

iż-Żnuber - siġra indiġena Maltija

iż-Żnuber – siġra indiġena Maltija

Meta tinġab siġra barranija u titħawwel hawn Malta, din jista’ jkollha numru ta’ impatti negattvi fuq il-­biodiverstà Maltija. Dawn nistgħu niġbruhom taħt tlett irjus: dawk ekoloġiċi, dawk soċjali u dawk ekonomiċi. Dawn l­impatti jistgħu jkunu kemm diretti kif ukoll indiretti.

L-­impatt ekoloġiku ma jgħoddx biss għas­-siġar imma jgħodd għal kull speċi li tiddaħħal fl-­ambjent, fl­-ekosistema li ma tkunx naturali tagħha. Din tista’ tiddaħħal bi żball, bil-­ħsieb, jew inkella wara li tinġieb minn barra l-­ambjent mhux tagħha, taħrab u tibda toktor f’dan l-­ambjent natural fejn qatt ma kienet tikber qabel.

U meta din tinfiles f’dan l-­ambjent natural, ma tistax ma tagħmelx impatt li jkollu effett ħazin fuq l­-ekosistema ­ – in-­nisġa naturali tal-post. U hawnhek f’dan il-­każ, insibu siġar mhux indġeni li jew jaħarbu waħedhom billi jxerrdu ż-­żerriegħa, kif spjegajna fl­-ewwel artiklu, jew inkella billi xi ħadd jarmihom fl-­ambjent naturali.

U l-­impatt negattiv ta’ dawn huwa li huma jikkompetu ma’ speċi oħra indiġeni, jikkompetu għall-­art, u għall-­ispazju, jikkompetu għad-­dawl, jikkompetu għall-­ilma li bħalna mingħajru ma jgħaddux. U dawn is­sigar li ddaħħlu minn barra jistgħu jkunu tant b’saħħithom li s­-siġar, il-pjanti u l­-fawna indiġena ma jkunux jistgħu jagħmlu xejn kontrihom. Tant li ma jkun hemmx xejn li jista’ jwaqqafhom u jikkontrollahom.

Uħud minn dawn is­-sigar barranin li jiddaħħu Malta meta jirnexxilhom jaħarbu u jibdew jokbtru mingħajr ma jkunu jistgħu jiġu kkontrollati, jsiru invażivi ­ ikunu qed jinvadu ambjent naturali li mhux tagħhom.

Hemm saħansitra wħud minn dawn is-­siġar li nġabu u ddaħħlu hawn Malta li wara li jaħarbu, u anki jekk ma jaħarbux, huma kapaċi li kemm mill­-weraq tagħhom li jaqgħu taħthom kif ukoll mill-­għeruq tagħhom jagħmlu kimika bijoloġika li ma tħallix speċi oħra jikbru fil­madwar, biex hekk ma jkollhomx kompetizzjoni għas-­saħħa u l­-għixiem tagħhom. Waħda minn dawn is­-siġar hija l­-Ewkalyptus jew kif isibuha xi wħud, is­-siġra tal-­gamiem.

L-Ewkalyptus - Siġra Awstraljana

L-Ewkalptus – siġra Awstraljana

Minbarra hekk, billi huma ma jkunux jiffurmaw parti mill­-ekosistema tal-­post ma jkunx hemm speċi oħra la ta’ fawna u lanqas ta’ mikoorganismi li jattakkawhom u jgħixu fuqhom biex jikkontrollawhom.

Iżda dan huwa biss impatt dirett. Minbarra dan hemm ukoll l-­impatt indirett. Illum kif wieħed jista’ jara, anki f’pajjiżna l­-ġirja għal­konsumiżmu u l­-qligħ tal-­flus f’qasir żmien għelbet kull etifka, rispett u responsabbiltà ekoloġika, soċjali u ekonomika. Jekk hemm il­-qligħ tal-flus, mela mexxi u toqgħodx taħseb fuq l-­impatti li jista’ jkun hemm fil-qrib jew fil-­futur. Dan iħallsuhom il-­poplu u l-­ambejnt.

Jekk wieħed illum idur dawra mal­-pajjiż wieħed jista’ jara numru ta’ siġar kbar li ġurnata ma jkunux hemm u l­-għada Alla jbierek tarahom siġar kbar ta’ aktar minn 10, 12, 20 sena. Dan kif jingħad isir biex isebbħu l­-pajjiż, għalkemm mhux kulħadd jaqbel ma’ dan. U wieħed jista’ jara minn dawn is-­sigar li lanqss biss huma Mediterranji imma migjuba minn kontinenti oħra bħal Asja, l-­Amerika t’Isfel u l-­Affrika. Siġar kbar li jiġu importati fi qsari kbar bl-­għeruq fil-­ħamrija. U magħhom aktar iva milli le, dawn iġibu organiżmu oħra li ma jkunux jidhru u ma jkunux jistgħu jiġu kkontrollati. U meta dawn jitħawlu f’posthom madwar Malta dawn l-­organismi jinfirxu u jagħmlu l-­ħsara lill-­ekoloġija Maltija. Ngħidu aħna bħalma qed jagħmel il-­Bumunqar Aħmar tal­-Plm, fost ħafna oħrajn.

Imma fuq dan nitkellmu fl­-artiklu li jmiss.