The public landscaping mistakes experts say need fixing

October 18, 2019

Monday, 14th October, 2019

As an old contract comes to an end, we asked experts what we’ve done wrong

Jessica Arena

   photo: Times of Malta

Public landscaping practices in Malta have been plagued by poor practices which should not be repeated once a contract with the old consortium comes to an end, experts have said.

The public-private partnership deal between Environmental Landscapes Consortium and the government expires at the end of the year and a process for a new call for tenders is in the works.

In 2017, the National Audit Office published a report that found that the partnership with ELC should have long been dissolved due to a series of contract breaches on the part of the consortium.

The government has spent over €100 million since the start of the agreement in 2002, where neither the original partnership agreement nor the two subsequent contract extensions were awarded through a competitive tendering process.

The report, however, does not address the environmental critiques leveled at ELC, particularly when it comes to taking a more biodiversity-conscious approach to landscaping works.

Planting invasive species

“The consortium’s most insidious environmental impact has been the indiscriminate use of non-indigenous species during a number of landscaping projects,” marine biologist and environmentalist Alan Deidun told Times of Malta.

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In its early days, the consortium was responsible for the widespread planting of the hottentot fig (Carpobrotus edulis), a highly invasive species of South African succulent, he said.

Using water-guzzling turf

Additionally, ELC was often criticised for its use of water-guzzling turfs and the planting of non-local stocks of native species.

Millions of euros were literally wasted, including the scarce resource of water used

Landscaper and garden expert Fernando Mifsud said: “Although aesthetically beautiful, lawns need a lot of water to keep them looking green and also need a lot of fertilisers and chemicals to keep them looking healthy.”

Such pesticides leach into the ground, killing the biodiversity in the soil. They are also washed in the water course through water runoff when it rains, therefore negatively affecting water creatures like frog populations, he said.

Removing local ‘weeds’

Additionally, the overuse of pesticides and the culling of local flora considered to be ‘weeds’ were also critiques leveled at the landscaping consortium.

Local flora is often culled from landscaping projects to maintain “neatness” – however, these species are closely linked to local fauna such as native butterfly or bird species, and their elimination contributes to the scarce propagation of local fauna.

Environmentalist Alfred Baldacchino maintains that had the funds invested in the consortium in the past 15 years been utilised professionally, Malta would be covered with indigenous trees grown from local stock.

“From a biodiversity point of view, taking into consideration national and international obligation, millions of euros were literally wasted, including the scarce resource of water used,” Mr Baldacchino said.

What should a new contract stipulate?

Mr Baldacchino, who has been petitioning the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure for a copy of the public agreement since 2015, believes a new agreement should regard contractors solely as operators and a regulatory role should fall within the Environment Ministry.

“Contractors should not be allowed any monopoly on landscaping. Emphasis should be entrenched in the contract that all trees and shrubs used for landscaping purposes should be propagated from local stock, so that a new local industry can be established for centres providing indigenous plants,” Mr Baldacchino said.

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This will also ensure the local gene pool of the indigenous species is not polluted, thus contributing towards better protection of indigenous species also from diseases and invasive alien species, having more educational input for the benefit of the public, and contributing to a multiplier effect from the funds allocated for landscaping.

Prof. Deidun stressed that future operators should ensure that only native or indigenous species fully adapted to the semi-arid conditions of the Mediterranean Basin are planted in landscaping projects.

“Additionally, plants which represent year-round important food resources for pollinators (e.g. bees) should be favoured, despite their status as ‘weeds’ by the public,” he added.

Mr Mifsud also says there should be an obligation to focus on the planting of indigenous species that propagate better in the region.

“These trees and plants need less care and are resistant to drought and pests. Over the years, they have evolved and adapted to our climate. This would also reduce the maintenance cost on the long run,” Mr Mifsud said.

When contacted, ELC declined to comment.

other related articles on this blog

Trees hit headlines

Our ‘landscaping’ needs professional updating

Maltese trees – conserving and landscaping

updating/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/trees-and-invasive-species

/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/national-hobby-of-butchering-trees

/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/use-and-overuse-of-pesticides-2

/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2015/05/05/alien-invasive-species-animation-film

/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/eu-stand-on-invasive-species/

 

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Fjuri indigeni Maltin 7 – Is-Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex

August 18, 2015

NewsBook

L-Erbgħa, 26 ta’ Awwissu, 2015

Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex

Alfred E Baldacchino

Sempreviva-ta'-Għawdex---habita3t

L-ambjent naturali tas-Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex

Fil-gżejjer Maltin sal-lum nafu bi 18-il speċi ta’ fjuri slavaġġ li huma endemiċi, jiġifieri li jinstabu jikbru biss fil-gżejjer Maltin u mkien aktar fid-dinja. Waħda minn dawn hija s-Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex. Din il-pjanta endemika tikber biss fil-għarb (punent) ta’ Għawdex, u hawn tikber biss fuq il-Blata tal-Ġeneral fid-Dwejra u mal-uċuħ weqfin tal-irdumijet tal-madwar fuq il-baħar. Jingħad li darba kienet tikber ukoll f’xi nħawi ewlenija f’Ħad-Dingli, imma llum ma għadhiex tinstab.

Sempreviva-ta'-Għawdex---habita2t

Il-weraq u l-fjuri tas-Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex.

Is-Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex hija arbuxell li tħobb  Ix-xemx u li togħla minn 30 sa 70 ċm. Tikber b’ ħafna friegħi fuq zokk li jkun iffullat bil-weraq.  Il-weraq ikunu forma ta’ lanza żgħira dritta ’l fuq li fuq il-wiċċ tagħhom ikollhom bħal xagħar li jtihom id-dehra fiddiena tagħhom. Imma meta jkunu mxarrba jidhru ħodor. L-għan ta’ dan ix-xagħar fin huwa biex jgħin  lill-pjanta mill-irjiħat qawwija u anki minn nixfa fis-sajf u hekk jgħinhom biex ma jinxfux.

Il-fjuri tagħha huma sofor forma ta’ bukkett żgħir li jkun fih numru ta’ fjuretti tawwalin żgħar li għandhom riħa ta’ kari (curry). Il-fjuri jidhru bejn Mejju sa Ġunju.

Meta dawn jinqatgħu jżommu l-kulur tagħhom għal numru ta’ snin, u għalhekk l-isem xjentifiku tagħha huwa sempreviva.

B’diqa wieħed jgħid li din il-pjanta importanti fil-gżejjer Maltin dejjem qed tonqos fis-selvaġġ. Is-Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex hija mhedda, kemm minhabba li ma għandiex firxa wiesgħa fejn qed tikber, kif ukoll minħabba kemm nuqqas ta’ għarfien u t-telf tal-ambjent tagħha. Dan minkejja li din il-pjanta titnissel bl-ebda tbatija.

Biċċiet mill-irduminjiet fejn tikber ġieli jaqgħu fil-baħar minħabba t-tħabbit tal-mewġ.  Dawn jiġu wkoll mgħejjuna min numru tat-theżżiż mill-furnelli li jintużaw fil-barrieri ta’ biswit. It-trubien li jtiru mill-barrieri l-aktar fil-ġranet tas-sajf xejn ma jgħinu lanqas, kif ma jgħinx l-anqas l-iskart li jitfa’ l-bniedem fl-inħawi fejn tikber.

L-apprezzament tal-bniedem ma jistax ikun aktar fqir. U dan narawh minn numru ta’ pjanti invażivi li qed jiddaħħlu minn barra u jintużaw fl-hekk imsejjaħ ‘landscaping’ imħallas minn flus pubbliċi, bħal ngħidu aħna s-swaba tal-Madonna, l-agave American, mgħejjuna mill-bajtar tax-xewk, u siġar tat-tin li jikbru fl-irdumijiet. Il-bini biswit ukoll għandu l-impatt negattiv tiegħu.

Sempreviva-ta'-Għawdex---fjuri

Dehra mill-viċin tal-fjuri tas-Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex.

Minħabba f’hekk, din il-pjanta endemika, ewlenija u mhedda fil-gżejjer Maltin  hija mħarsa bir-regolamenti kemm nazzjonali kif ukoll internazzjonali. Avviż Legali 311 tal-2006 għall-ħarsien tal-flora u tal-fawna Maltija jħares lis-Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex u hekk “ebda persuna ma għandha deliberament tiġbor, tikkollezzjona, taqta’ taqla’ mill-għeruq, tiddistruġġi, jew tikkaġuna ħsara b’xi mod”.

Barra minhekk l-ambjent naturali tagħha fid-Dwejra huwa ddikjarat bħala Wesgħa  Speċjali ta’ Konservazzjoni (SAC – Special Area of Conservation) biex b’hekk kemm il-pjanta nnifisha, kif ukoll l-ambjent naturali tagħha jkunu mħarsa. U l-Blata tal-Ġeneral fejn tikber, hija wkoll Riserva Naturali, fejn ħadd ma jista’ jitla’ ħlief għall-għanijiet xjentifiċi.

Tant hija mhedda s-Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex li hija wkoll imniżżla fil-Kiteb l-Aħmar ta’ Malta (Red Data Book).

Min-naħa Internazzjonali tinstab ukoll fil-lista numru I tal-Konvenzjoni ta’ Berna tal-Kunsill tal-Ewropa, dwar il-ħarsien tal-ħajja Selvaġġa u l-Ambjenti Naturali ta’ l-Ewropa,  kif ukoll ġiet miżjuda fi skedi tad-Direttiva tal-Ambjent Naturali tal-Unjoni Ewropea meta Malta ssieħbet fl-2004.

Skeda II tad-Direttiva tal-Unjoni Ewropea tiġbor fiha speċi ta’ annimali u ta’ pjanti li huma ta’ interess għall-Komunità Ewropea u li għalhekk il-ħarsien tagħhom jeħtieġu li jiġu dikjarati Wesgħat Speċjali ta’ Konservazzjoni (SAC) fejn jinstabu.

Skeda V tad-Direttiva tal-Unjoni Ewropea tiġbor fiha speċi ta’ annimali u pjanti li huma ta’ interess tal-Komunità Ewropea li għandhom ħtieġa ta’ ħarsien strett.

Minħabba li tant hija mhedda hija wkoll imniżżla fil-lista tal-Unjoni Internazzjonali għall-Ħarsien tal-Natura (IUCN – International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

Iżda dan waħdu mhux biżżejjed. Hemm bżonn aktar immanniġġar tal-post, infurzar tal-liġi, aktar riċerka, u aktar komunikazzjoni, edukazzjoni u tisħiħ tal-kuxjenza pubblika dwar dan.

Skont l-obblilgi ta’ Malta bħala sieħba fl-Unjoni Ewropea, kull sit li ġie ddikjarat bħala Wesgħa Speċjali ta’ Konservazzjoni (SACs) għandu jiġi mmaniġġjati sa sitt snin mid-dħul fl-UE. Fl-ewwel u t-tieni ġimgħa ta’ Awwissu 2015, kien hemm l-aħħar konsultazzjoni pubblika dwar dawn. Wieħed jittama’ li meta dawn jiġu approvati jibdew jittieħdu il-passi biex:

Sempreviva-ta'-Għawdex---mhedda

Is-Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex mhedda mis-swaba tal-Madonna, pjanta invażiva.

  • L-ispeċi invażivi lil qed jħeddu lill-pjanti endemiċi f’dawn il-wesgħat, fosthom is-Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex, jiġu eleminati, l-aktar is-swaba tal-Madonna li qed toħnoq lis-Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex bħalma qed toħnoq pjanti slavaġġ fi nħawi oħra. Sfortunatament din il-pjanta għadha qed titħawwel fl-hekk imsejħa ‘lanscaping’ u hekk hemm bżonn li l-Ministru tal-Trasport u l-Landscaping, li huwa responsabbli għal dan,  jiġi mġiegħel biex iwaqqaf din il-ħsara ekoloġika .
  • Jitħejja programm ta’ azzjoni biex is-Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex (u speċi oħrajn rari u mhedda) jibdew jiġu mnissla u jintużaw madwar il-pajjiż minflok dawk il-ħafna speċi importati ukoll imħallsa minn flus pubbliċi, li qed jagħmlu ħafna ħsara lill-ekosistema Maltija.
  • Isir pjan ta’ immaniġġar tal-post fejn tikber is-Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex biex jikkontrolla t-tgħaffiġ u t-tqaċċit tagħha bla kontrol li jeżisti llum, kemm mill-Maltin kif ukoll mit-turisti.
  • Isiru studji u monitoraġġ biex jinstabu l-għala din l-ispeċi endemika qed tonqos fis-selvaġġ.
  • l-attività kummerċjali fid-Dwejra, anki dik turistika, issir b’mod sostenibbli biex din il-pjanta unika fid-dinja ma tinqeridx.

Wieħed jittama’ li jibda’ jara din il-pjanta endemika Maltija mħawla kemm f’postijiet urbani kif ukoll fil-ambjenti naturali xierqa, dejjem  bl-approvazzjoni tad-Direttorat għall-Ħarsien tal-Ambjent, kemm biex titqajjem aktar kuxjenza pubblika lejha, kif ukoll biex ikollha aktar ħarsien u ma tinqeridx minn wiċċ id-dinja.

Isem Malti: Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex

Isem xjentifiku: Helichrysum melitense

Isem Ingliż: Maltese Everlasting

ara wkoll:

Fjuri indigeni Maltin 6 – Għajn is-serduq http://wp.me/pL6Mk-QR

Fjuri indigeni Maltin 5 – It-Tengħud tax-Xagħri http://wp.me/pL6Mk-N4

Fjuri indigeni Maltin 4 – It-Tengħud tas-siġra http://wp.me/pL6Mk-Mp

Fjuri indigeni Maltin 3 –Il-Kappar http://wp.me/pL6Mk-Kp

Fjuri indigeni Maltin 2 – Kromb il-Baħar http://wp.me/pL6Mk-Jw

Fjuri indigeni Maltin 1 – Il-Ħannewija http://wp.me/pL6Mk-ua

Discovering wild flowers at Dingli http://wp.me/pL6Mk-uB

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


Siġar, Biodiversità u l-Unjoni Ewropea

May 9, 2012

07 Mejju, 2012

Saviour Balzan jintervista lil Alfred E. Baldacchino
fuq il-Programm Reporter

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Roundabout plants described as ‘invaders’

October 2, 2011

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Roundabout plants described as ‘invaders’

James Debono

PLANT invaders are being “deliberately introduced as ornamental plants”, The Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s newly published guidelines on managing non-native plants states.

But the document fails to show the way on how these plants can be stopped from spreading. contends Alfred E. Baldacchino, a former assistant director Environment Protection Directorate.

The document refers directly to Carpobrotus edulis (Hottentot Fig), a plant used in the embellishment of roundabouts by the Environment Landscape Consortium, as a invasive species, “listed amongst 100 of the worst invaders in Europe.”

But the document focuses on how alien plants can be removed without harming the environment, rather than seeking to prevent their introduction in Malta. According to Baldacchino, landscaping is one of the main sources of invasive alien species, especially when internationally listed species like Carpobrutus edulis (Hottentot Fig), “is wantonly planted in open public areas and paid for by government, despite public concern, MEPA’s reports, and international obligations.”

Another plant used in landscaping which is spreading is the drought resistant Fountain Grass whose seeds are dispersed by wind. While describing MEPA’s document on controlling invasive species as “professional and useful” Baldacchino expressed disappointment that the document does not address the introduction of invasive species, but only their removal.

Seeds are primarily dispersed by wind, but can also disperse by water and vehicles

One shortcoming of the document, according to Baldacchino, is that it does not seek to address issues like the introduction of alien species in public landscaping projects.

Baldacchino notes that in a document containing 31,800 word, the word ‘landscaping’ is only mentioned once, and this  “as part of the name of a publication.”

A footnote to the document explains why the document does not address the issue of prevention. While stating that a primary management goal in a strategic approach to deal with biological invasions is prevention, this aspect is not addressed in the guidelines which focus on providing guidance on how to deal with major plant invaders that are already present in the Maltese islands.

“The element of prevention is however integrated in relevant provisions of domestic legislation,” states the document.

The Convention on Biological Diversity – of which Malta is a signatory – lays down a global framework for governments and other organisations to develop strategies to prevent the introduction of, and promote the management of impacts of  Invasive Alien Species.

“Malta has legal obligations under this Convention which is also transposed into EU Legislation. This is not completely addressed in the document,” said Baldacchino.

According to Baldacchino MEPA has “the potential, the resources, and the expertise” to produce a proactive document on how to honour its national and international legal obligations.

“But MEPA is so shy and impotent in enforcement, that it prefers to tackle the negative impacts at an economical, social and ecological expense, rather than to address the source. This MEPA document spells it all out”.

Baldacchino is now concerned that through such guidelines, it will be administratively easier for invasive alien species to be introduced than to be removed. “To eradicate these invasive plants one needs a permit from MEPA. But their introduction in the country is accorded red carpet treatment,” Baldacchino said.

The Hottentot fig

Carpobrotus edulis, an invasive plant known as the Cape or Hottentot Fig. is an aggressive species that climbs over other plant and kills, and is credited with wiping out 80% of Minorca’s endemic species, according to Natura 2000, the official newsletter of the European Commission’s directorate general for the environment. The plant reproduces through seeds and vcgetatively, by means of trailing stems and broken-off segments and can be dispersed by mammals, including rodents. Seeds that have not  germinated can remain viable in the soil for at least two yeas.

listed as one of the 100 of the Worst Invasive Species

The plant was successfully eliminated from the   Spanish island of Minorca through an EU-funded project. The plant, already popular in private homes, was used to embellish the Manuel Dimech Bridge project and the airport roundabouts by the Environment Landscapes Consortium.

Contacted last year, the ELC strongly denied that the plant posed any threat to Maltese biodiversity. insisting that when these plants are used in controlled landscapes they are never invasive. But biologist Alan Deidun disputed this claim, insisting that it is impossible to speak of “controlled environments” for plant species which can spread relatively easily.

Deidun claimed that despite being planted in roundabouts, the plant still manages to spread. carpeting whole swathes along cliff areas, especially in the southwest of the islands, which generally tend to harbour species of conservation importance.

The ELC nursery manager said the plant is very well adapted to the Maltese climate, being extremely wind and fire-resistant with the ability to take saline water.