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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X’qed nagħmlu bl-ilma tax-xita?

June 24, 2014

NewsBook

X’qed nagħmlu bl-ilma tax-xita?

 

 It-Tlieta, 24 ta’ Ġunju, 2014

Alfred E. Baldacchino

water tapKieku wieħed kellu jistaqsi minn fejn inġibu l-ilma ma għandhix dubju li jkunu ħafna dawk li jgħidu li dan jiġi mil-vit! Forsi wħud jgħidu mid-distillaturi li jaqilbu l-ilma baħar f’ilma tax-xorb. Imma naħseb li jkunu l-ftit dawk li jaħsbu li x-xita t-tina ilma tajjeb għax-xorb u b’xejn għax ftit huma dawk li jgħarfu l-importanza ta’ dan l­ilma. Dan, wara li jaqa’ mis-sema b’xejn, jinxtorob mill-blat u bil-mod il-mod jinħażen fl-ilma tal-pjan, kemm dak ta’ fuq, kif ukoll dak ta’ taħt. Fil-qedem kien is-sors tal-ħajja fil-gżejjer Maltin, u għal numru kbar ta’ snin kien jisqi kemm lill-bniedem u l-bhejjem tiegħu fuq din l­art. Kienu jaħsbu bis-sħiħ biex dan ma jinħeliex.

06 - ilma

Kif l-ilma tax-xita jinxtorob u jinħażen fl-ilma tal-pjan,kemm ta’ fuq kif ukoll ta’ taħt. (meħud mill-ktieb Ilma, blat u ħajja ta’ Patrick J Schembri u Alfred E. Baldachhino)

Minn jaf kemm konna nixorbu anki minn nixxigħat, jew inkella ntellu ftit ilma bil-barmil mill-bir. Dak kien ilma bnin u frisk, u b’xejn. Għidt konna għax illum wieħed jiftaħ il-vit u jsib l-ilma, li nħallsu għalih. U hekk nemmnu li dak tax-xita ma għandux valur u mhux tajjeb. Għalhekk ftit hemm għarfien tal-bżonn li nieħdu ħsieb dan ir-riżors, dejjem sakemm meta niftħu l-vit insibuh.

Tant tlifna kull apprezzament ta’ dan ir-riżors importanti għall-ħajja li jasal għandna b’xejn, li llum aktar hemm sforzi biex narmuħ milli biex naħżnuh.

dumped-water

Ngħid għalija ma nistax nifhem it-tfassil poliltiku li twettaq dan l-aħħar snin. Kien hemm liġi tal-1854 li kull qatra ilma tax-xita trid tiġi maħżuna. Imma Ministru Malti ħassar dan l-obbligu li kienet titlob li kull dar u kull binja jkollha bir kbir skont il-kobor tal-binja, biex jilqa’ u jaħżen l-ilma tax-xita, u dan tpoġġa f’linji ġwida. U hekk issa l-ilma li jaqa’ fuq il-bjut jista’ jmur fit-toroq jew fid-dranaġġ li qatt ma tfassal biex jieħu dan l-ilma kollu. Wieħed jista’ jara numru ta’ funtani ta’ ilma mniġġeż ħiereġ mit-tappieri fit-toroq, u ilma ħiereġ fit-toroq minn fuq il-bjut. Dan imur fil-widien u jniġġeż kull fejn jgħaddi, saħansitra anki l-ilma tal-pjan.

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LN-376-of-2012

Naraw ukoll Ministru li biex itaffi l-għargħar minn dan l-ilma mit-toroq issa l-biċċa ’l kbira mniġġeż, iħaffer mina taħt l-art bi flus mill-Unjoni Ewropea (madwar €70 miljun) biex l-ilma tax-xita ma jibqax jiġri fit-toroq imma jintrema l-baħar. Smajna li dalwaqt titlesta din il-mina u naħseb li jindaqqu ftit trombi għall-ftuh ta’ din l-opra.

Ngħid kieku b’dawn il-flus kollha tħaffru ġwiebi kbar f’kull bitħa ta’ kull skola li għandna u f’kull wesgħa fl-irħula biex jilqgħu u jaħżnu dan l­ilma, u kieku l-bjar u l-ġwiebi li hawn ta’ żmien il-Kavallieri, issewwew u tranġaw, u kieku min ried iħaffer bir fid-dar tiegħu kien mgħejjun, ma kienx ikun aħjar milli dawn il-flus intremew il-baħar?

Saħansitra Ministru, ukoll minħabba l-obbligi u anki bi flus miġjuba mill-UE, bena impjant ħdejn il-baħar biex isaffi l-ilma tad-drenaġġ. U niftakar kemm-il darba li dan ftaħar li dan l-ilma ma għandux valur ekonomiku, u li Malta sejra tkun l-ewwel pajjiż fl-UE li tarmi, iva tarmi l-baħar, l-ilma msaffi mid-dranaġġ. U żgur li mhux sejrin nibqgħu tal-ewwel biss, imma anki tal-aħħar għaliex fl-UE l-ilma msaffi jintuża u jerġa jintuża u mhux jintrema, minkejja li għandhom ħafna aktar ilma milli għandna aħna. Ara Singapor, l-ilma tad-dranaġġ jużawh, darba, tnejn. tlieta, sa seba’ darbiet, u anki għax­ xorb. Imma la fl-UE u lanqas f’Singapor għadha ma waslet l-intelligenza endemika tal-politku Malti. Għandniex biex inkunu kburin f’dan il-pajjiż!

Mhux talli hekk, talli wara li l-ilma tad-dranaġġ imsaffi, u l-ilma tax-xita jintremew il-baħar, ftit metri ’l bogħod minn fejn dan jintrema, għandna d­distillaturi li jerġgħu jiġbdu l-ilma mill-baħar u jsaffuh biex jerġgħu jwassluh ġol-vit fid-­djar u fl-industrija: minn fejn ikun intrema. U biex isir dan jinħaraq ammont kbir ta’ żejt fossilizzat biex iħaddem id­distillarturi, u joħorġu flus Maltin barra minn Malti biex jinxtara. U l-ħruq tiegħu iniġġeż l-arja.

Xi kultant nistaqsi lili nnifsi jekk hemmx xi ħadd li huwa, jew kien, aktar ħerqan li jixtri ż-­żjut minn barra minn Malta milli huwa biex jaħżen u jsalva risorż naturali li l-Ħallieq itina kull sena b’xejn. Imma mbagħad ngħid, jien minn jien, biex nista’ nifhem din l-intelligenza kollha endemika tal-politikant Malti! Dan huwa onorevoli u intelliġenti, magħżul minn nies biex imexxina. U jien f’hiex nifhem fil-politika, fin-negozju taż-żejt, fil-magni, u fix-xogħol, imma għandi biss interessi soċjali u ambjentali?

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com

 

Ara wkoll/see also:

http://wp.me/pL6Mk-FB

http://wp.me/pL6Mk-ag

http://wp.me/pL6Mk-5f

http://wp.me/sL6Mk-water