Masters in eco destruction

November 20, 2017

Monday, 20 September, 2017

Masters in eco destruction

Alfred E Baldacchino

One of the many activities at the Majjistral History and Nature Park: educational walk for schools.

The Majjistral Park has been struck, not by blows from prevailing north-westerly winds, but by the Minister for the Environment, who succumbed to pressure and increased the time for the decimation of biodiversity at the park, and diminished the park’s educational potential.

Added to this is the tacit approval and the clearing of all obstacles for off-roading in the park, despite it being illegal.

It was during Parliament’s Environment and Development Planning Committee that I first met Herrera. His outburst, completely unrelated to the subject under discussion, was of promises of invasive species and tree protection regulations, which never materialised, and I do not have any inkling that they ever will.

The first environmental hurdle sent the Ministry flat on its face and the second one nailed it for keeps. ERA, the Authority responsible for our environment, was silent and absent from the PA decision on the power station and from the decision related to environmental permits, because of divine intervention and conflicts of interest! I can almost understand this better today. The sound of silence reigns supreme at ERA and the Ministry when confronted with anti-environment decisions.

It was very evident from day one that under this tenure, the Maltese people and our environment had to fasten our seat belts for a very rough ride.

60 olive trees on the university campus were so ‘pruned’ because their leaves were dropping on car parked below.

And so it was to be. Months later 60 mature olive trees on the university campus were chopped down, because the leaves of the trees were falling on cars parked below! And down went the trees with the order from university and the blessing of ERA.

Another feather in the Minister’s cap – half a dozen old indigenous oak trees eliminated to widen the road, barely half a metre.

More recently, half a score of old indigenous majestic oak trees at Lija, some centenarians, were also chopped down with the blessing of Herr-ERA, without any consideration of any tree protection order.

Instead, the minister boasted that they were not protected, confirming his failure to do so. Down they went too with ministry blessing. Rubbing salt in the wound, the strip where they grew is still there, and the only invasive tree which grew in the area is still there too. Who can understand endemic political intelligence, backed by top cream University academics?

The University saw no harm in chopping 60 old olive trees on its campus, so why should they worry about chopping down half a score of old oaks on public land?

Buskett, a Natura 2000 site, has a Cabinet-approved management plan sitting somewhere on the ministry’s shelves. (photo: Times of Malta)

The strange environmental (or anti-environmental) mentality within this ministry is also evident at Buskett, a Natura 2000 site, which has a Cabinet-approved management plan sitting somewhere on the ministry’s shelves. Works are being undertaken by the ministry’s employees with funds from the EU, in a LIFE Saving Buskett project.

environmental massacre taking place makes one wonder if the University is academically competent to prepare professional, scientific non-partisan qualified citizens

A stretch of maquis in this Natura 2000 site was bulldozed to accommodate machinery to build rubble walls. Two rare, strictly protected trees were chopped down to enable machinery manoeuvring. Adjacent trees were ‘pruned’ not to scratch machinery. Terrain was dumped on rare species of flora: thanks to EU funds and ERA.

Two mature hawthorn strictly protected tress in Buskett a Natura 2000 site chopped down to make way for vehicles! And not a whisper from the Ministry for the Environment.

From my understanding, University professional personnel are monitoring such works at Buskett. If true, what kind of qualifications is the University dishing out?  Undoubtedly “one will find something more in woods than in books. The trees and stones teach what one never learns from the masters” (Bernard De Clairvaux).

University professors abound on the board of ERA, including the rector of the University himself. The environmental massacre taking place under the watch of this ministry makes one wonder if the University is academically competent to prepare professional, scientific non-partisan qualified citizens.

Their tacit stand (or direct or indirect involvement) on environmental matter can only lead one to start asking if they are hand in glove in such official environment loss. And one cannot help but ask if partisan politics are having their toll on university academics too?

The invasive fountain grass used in landscaping by the Government’s landscaper, has invaded valleys, fields, roads, and urban areas without any action from the Ministry for the Environment.

Herrera’s ministry is more renowned for chopping and killing trees and biodiversity than anything else, despite the fact that it should be “planting a tree in the name of every new-born or adopted child in Malta”, as the electorate had been assured and promised.

Besides, this ministry, tacitly or not, has never taken any stand on the control of invasive species planted by its now official landscaper, contrary to national and international obligations, and with negative impacts on the social and biological detriment of our islands.

His vote in the EU on the complete ban of glyphosate, which is decimating pollinators, is now awaited.

Herrera knows that these decisions are diametrically opposite to his government’s electoral promise where all the people were assured that “environmental protection will be given priority and strength in all major decisions of the government”.

Why can’t we have a real ministry for the environment? Why cannot we have an environmental minister on the side of biodiversity protection and conservation, in the national interest?

My country, its people and our environment come first and foremost, above any blinkered partisan mentality. This is what prevents me from keeping silent. What is wrong in yearning for my country to excel socially, ecologically, spiritually, ethically, and financially?

Is it anti-good governance to hope that the less fortunate, educationally, financially and socially, are not exploited for the benefit of a selected few? Is there anything wrong to expect that such aims and social justice are encouraged, and help given to those involved trying to achieve such noble aims? Shouldn’t these aims be upheld by all those who have true Maltese blood running in their veins?

Unfortunately it seems that it is becoming unsafe to even dare have such a dream. Some are being labelled ‘traitors’, and may also be exposed to danger of life and limb, as has indeed happened.

Has local partisan politics eroded, for sectarian benefits, even our strong character which has seen us Maltese win over every evil since we set foot on these islands? Have we reached a state where “it is dangerous to be right when the established authorities are wrong”, as the French enlightenment writer Voltaire said.

Alfred Baldacchino is a former assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.

related articles




Propagating Maltese trees

September 19, 2017

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Are you interested in trees? Do you love trees? Do you want to know more on the Maltese indigenous trees which have been adorning our Country before man set foot on these islands? Do you want to start propagating these trees yourself and contribute to their conservation? Do you want to give a helping hand towards their protection?

If yes, then this is an opportunity not to be missed. Your benefit will also be the trees benefit.

See you there.


Survival – Majjistral Park talk

August 31, 2017


Thursday 31st August 2017

How do wild plants and animals survive the extreme hot summer months and the cold winter ones?

Have a look at the attached poster and book a place if you want to know more about such miracles of nature.

See you there.


Wied il-Għasel

August 15, 2017

Soċjetà Filarmonika Nicolò Isouard – Festa Santa Marija Mosta

it-Tlieta, 15 ta’ Awwissu, 2017

Wied il-Għasel

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Wied il-Għasel, li jdur mal-Mosta,  jagħmel parti minn katina ta’ widien oħra.

Il-fomm ta’ dan il-wied huwa Wied Liemu li jirċievi ammont kbir ta’ ilma mill-għoljiet fuq kull naħa tiegħu, jiġifieri dik ta’ Ħad-Dingli u dik tal-Imtaħleb. Billi fl-inħawi ta’ Wied Liemu hemm saff ta’ tafal, dan iżomm ħafna mill-ilma li jserraħ fuqu, u jifforma l-ilma tal-pjan ta’ fuq. Meta jfawwar, joħloq numru ta’ nixxigħat li l-inħawi huma magħrufa għalihom.

Meta tagħmel ħafna xita fl-inħawi, l-ilma jaqbad it-triq lejn artijiet aktar fil-baxx. Minn Wied Liemu jgħaddi mill-Fiddien, jaqbad ma’ Wied il-Qlejgħa, magħruf aktar bħala Chadwick Lakes, jerħila lejn Wied tal-Isperanza, jgħaddi minn Wied il-Għasel fi triqtu lejn is-Salina fejn iferra’  fil-baħar.

Hemm ukoll xi widien oħra iżgħar imma li xorta waħda jgħinu biex iferrgħu l-ilma tagħhom f’din il-medda ta’ widien ewlenin. Wied il-Bużbież; Wied Għomor u Wied Għemieri kollha jgħinu biex iwasslu l-ilma tagħhom sa Wied il-Qlejgħa, li minnu mbagħad jerħila għal Wied il-Għasel.

Din id-damma ta’ widien tlaħħaq madwar 14.4 kilometru. Hija t-tieni l-aktar medda ta’ widien li jilqgħu l-ilma tax-xita fil-gżejjer Maltin.

Jgħasses fuq Wied il-Għasel, fil-parti magħrufa bħala Dawret il-Wied, hemm, jew aħjar hemm, il-fdalijiet ta’ Wied Filep, li nbelgħa minn barriera tal-qawwi. Dan jixbaħ foss għoli u kważi dritt, riżultat ta’ ċaqliq tal-art. Fil-fdalijiet ta’ Wied Filep insibu numru żgħir tas-siġra nazzjonali, l-għargħar, li ilhom magħrufa minn dawn l-inħawi sa minn kmieni fis-seklu 20. Jista’ jgħati l-każ li dawn is-siġar tal-għargħar huma l-fdalijiet ta’ masġar ta’ dawn is-siġar maghrufa minn Wied Filep.

Dan wassal biex b’Avviż tal-Gvern numru 473 tal-24 ta’ Mejju tal-2011, Wied Filep ġie ddikjarat bħala Żona ta’ Siġar Imħarsa (Tree Protected Area) skont kif jipprovdu r-regolamenti tal-ħarsien tas-siġar u l-imsagar tal-2011.

Barra minn hekk, minħabba li Wied Filep huwa sinjur fil-flora indiġena Maltija, bħal ngħidu aħna t-tengħud tas-siġra, u s-salvja tal-Madonna li tinstab tikber fi rqajja fil-gżejjer Maltin, dawn l-inħawi huma meqjusa bħala inħawi ta’ valur għoli fil-biodiversità (Area of High Landsape Value) u ġew dikjarati bħala Riserva Naturali.

Is-salvja tal-Madonna – pjanta indiġena Maltija rari li wieħed jista’ jiltaqa’ magħha wkoll f’Wied il-Għasel.

Jingħad li f’Wied il-Għasel tant kien hemm numru kbir ta’ naħal li kienu jibnu x-xehda tagħhom fix-xquq fil-blat, li dawn kienu jagħmlu tant għasel li f’xi nħawi kien ifur u kien iqattar matul dan il-wied. Dan it-twemmin kien ta l-isem lill-kappella li nbient fl-1760. Huwa minn dan l-għijdut li dan il-Wied ha ismu.

Minbarra dan, fil-Wied il-Għasel insibu numru ta’ pjanti slavaġġ li huma wkoll komuni, bħal ngħidu aħna: iċ-ċfolloq, il-borgħom, il-buttuniera, il-ħaxixa tal-misk, il-ħobbejża tar-raba’, il-lellux, il-moxt, it-te Sqalli, ix-xewk tal-Madonna, iż-żebbuġija, l-għollieq, l-ispraġġ xewwieki u x-xewk abjad.

Pjanti slavaġġ oħra, li minkejja li ma humiex daqshekk komuni, imma huma frekwenti, huma: iċ-ċfolloq tal-ilma, il-ħobbejża tar-raba’, il-ħobbejża tal-warda kbira, il-margerita salvaġġa, il-qarsajja tal-ilma, in-narċis imwaħħar, is-siġret il-ħarir, it-tursin il-bir, l-erika, il-kalaminta, ix-xpakkapietra, u ż-żigland tal-għerq.

Saħansitra nsibu wkoll pjanti slavaġġ skarsi bħat-tursin ir-riħ, is-salvja tal-Madonna u l-kaħwiela, li tkellimna fuqha fil-ħarġa tas-sena l-oħra.

Il-ħobbejża tal-warda kbira – fjura selvaġġa frekwenti li tagħti sehmha biex isebbaħ Wied il-Għasel

Hemm ukoll pjanti rari ħafna bħall-brimba ta’ Sqallija, li nbelgħet mill-barriera, l-felċi tal-ħitan tas-sejjiegħ, il-ħaxixa tal-baħar tal-ħarifa u l-għansar tal-ġonna.

Insibu wkoll it-tulliera ta’ Malta, pjanta endemika Maltija, jiġifieri pjanta li tinstab tikber fil-ġżejjer Maltin biss.

Il-pjanta invażiva, dik tal-ħaxixa Ingliża li ddaħlet mill-Afrika t’Isfel, ukoll terfa’ rasha sewwa f’dan il-wied.

Il-kappella ta’ San Pawl l-eremita f’Wied il-Għasel.

Illum insibu żewġ kappelli matul dan il-wied. Dik tal-Isperanza fejn il-Wied tal-Isperanza jaqbad ma’ Wied il-Għasel. U dik ta’ San Pawl L-Eremita.

Kif wieħed jista’ jara Wied il-Għasel mhux biss huwa sinjur fil-biodiversità, imma anki fil-wirt storiku.

Bil-fjuri slavaġġ u anki dawk ta’ siġar tal-frott li llum huwa mżejjen bihom, dan joffri mergħat kbar fejn in-naħal jirgħu u jiġbru kemm l-għasel tal-fjuri, kif ukoll l-għabra tad-dakkra li huma jużaw biex jibnu x-xeħda u jagħmlu l-għasel. U fil-qedem kien hemm ħafna u ħafna aktar fjuri minn dawn li kienu jżejnu u jagħmlu l-mergħat aktar sinjuri. U b’dawn il-mergħat kollha fil-kenn ta’ Wied il-Għasel, ma setgħax jonqos li dan il-wied kien il-beniena tal-għasel li n-naħal kienu jaħdmu wara li jżuru l-fjuri. Wied il-Għasel, wied sinjur li ma tantx għarafna nieħdu ħsiebu biex ikomplu jsebbaħ u joffrilna ikel naturali u mediċinali.

Dan minbarra  n-numru ta’ fawna oħra bħall-ngħidu aħna friefett, rettili, għasafar u anki mammiferi li jgħammru f’dan il-wied.

Wied il-Għasel iħaddar anke fl-eqqel tas-sajf

Ma tkunx ħaġa tajba li kieku jsiru pjanijiet ta’ immanniġar biex dan il-wied jerġa jingħata l-għarfien tiegħu għal kemm kien sinjur u kemm għin lill-bniedem biex jitrejjaq, jerġa jibda jgħinna bil-kuluri tal-fjuri u tal-ħlejjaq oħra li jgħixu fih, u jerġa jibda jitma lilna bil-għasel li tant kien jgħati qabel. Kollox jiddependi minna.

 Speċi li jissemmew

Borgħom – Yellow Germander – Teucrium flavum
Brimba ta’ Sqallija – Beaked Spider Orchid – Ophrys oxyrrhynchos
Buttuniera – Sweet Alyssum – Lobularia maritima
Ċfolloq – Autumn Buttercup – Ranunculus bullatus
Erika – Mediterranean Heath – Erica muliflora
Felċi tal-ħitan tas-sejjieħ – Rusty-back Fern – Asplenium ceterach
Għansar tal-ġonna – Portugese Squill – Scilla peruviana
Għollieq – Bramble – Rubus ulmifolius
Ħaxixa Ingliża – Bermuda Buttercup – Oxalis pes-caprae 
Ħaxixa tal-baħar tal-ħarifa – Lesser Arrowgrass – Triglochin bulbosa subsp. laxiflora
Ħaxixa tal-misk – Musk Stork’s Bill – Erodium moschatum
Ħobbejża tal-warda kbira – Rose Mallow – Lavatera trimestris
Ħobbejża tar-raba – Common Mallow – Malva sylvestris
Kaħwiela – Crown Anemone – Anemone coronaria
Kalaminta – Lesser Calaminth – Calamintha nepeta
Lellux – Crown Daisy – Glebionis coronaria
Ċfolloq Sqalli – Scilly Buttercup – Ranunculus muricatus
Margerita salvaġġa – Southern Daisy – Bellis sylvestris
Moxt – Mallow-Leaved Stork’s Bill – Erodium malacoides
Narċis imwaħħar – Late Narcissus – Narcissus serotinus
Putorja – Stinking Madder – Putoria calabrica
Qarsajja tal-ilma – Clustered Dock – Rumex conglomeratus
Salvja tal-Madonna – Great Sage – Phlomis fruticosa
Siġra tal-għargħar – Sandarac gum tree – Tetraclinis articulata
Siġret il-Ħarir – African Wolfbane – Periploca angustifolia
Spraġġ xewwieki – Mediterranean Asparagus – Asparagus aphyllus
Te Sqalli – White Hedge-Nettle – Prasium majus
Tulliera ta’ Malta – Maltese Fleabane – Chiliadenus bocconei
Tursin il-Bir – Maidenhair Fern – Adiantum capillus-veneris
Tursin ir-riħ – Annual Maidenhair – Anogramma leptophylla
Xewk abjad – Mediterranean Thistle – Galactites tomentosa
Xewk tal-Madonna – Milk Thistle – Silybum marianum                   
Xpakkapietra – Maltese savory – Micromeria microphylla 
Żebbuġija – Olive-leaved Germander – Teucrium fruticans
Żigland tal-għerq – Tuberous Hawkbit – Leonodon tuberosus

ara wkoll:

Fjuri indiġeni Maltin 8 – Il-Kaħwiel

Il-bebbux żgħir imlembet

August 13, 2017

Il-bebbux żgħir imlembet

Alfred E Baldacchino

is-Sibt, 12 ta’ Awwissu 2017


Il-bebbuxu li nistgħu nsejħulu l-bebbux żgħir imlembet minħabba l-għamla tiegħu, huwa speċi ta’ mollusk fil-klassi Gastropoda, kelma Griega li tfisser stonku u sieq. Il-Gastropoda tiġbor fiha l-bebbux u l-bugħeriewen ta’ kull daqs u ta’ kull għamla: minn mikroskopiċi sa mdaqqsin. F’din il-klassi nsibu eluf ta’ speċi: kemm bebbux u bugħeriewen tal-art u tal-ilma. Fost dawk tal-ilma nsibu l-imħar.

Madwar 24,000 speci ta’ Gastropoda huma magħrufa li jgħixu fuq l-art.

Waħda mill-familji f’din il-klassi hija dik tal-Cochlicellidae: familja li tigbor fiha bebbux żgħir tal-art. Dawn il-bebbux għandhom qoxra tawwalija u ġejja għall-ponta; tixbaħ lembut dejjaq ġej għall-ponta rqiqa.

Mijiet ta’ bebbux żgħir imlembet reqdin għax-xhur sħan tas-sajf.

Il-qoxra imlembta tal-bebbuxu, biż-żokra fil-parti l-wiesgħa tagħha.

Il-qoxra tal-bebbux żgħir imlembet li jkun għadu żgħir ikollha din il-ponta tniggeż.  Il-qoxra tkun minn 8 sa 13.7 mm tul b’diametru ta’ minn 4 sa 5 mm. Din tkun iddur imkebba għal minn 8 sa 11-il darba, ta’ lewn isfar bajdani, ta’ spiss b’sinjali, tikek jew dbabar kannella kemmxejn ileqqu, madwarha. L-aħħar dawra fil-qoxra tkun aktar wiesgħa mill-oħrajn u tkun xi minn daqqiet kważi nofs it-tul tal-qoxra kollha. Taħt dan it-tarf il-wiesa’ jkollha forma ta’ żokra ovali li kważi hija mgħottija b’xoffa. Minn din iż-żokra joħrog il-bebbuxu li jkun ġewwa mħares minna.

Fil-gżejjer Maltin, il-bebbuxu li jgħix ġol-qoxra huwa ta’ lewn ħamrani ċar. Fuq dahru l-bebbuxu għandu sinjal iswed matulu, bi dbajja kannella fl-iswed u numru ta’ tikek żgħar suwed.

Il-bebbuxu żgħir tal-art imlembet barra mill-qoxra tiegħu.

Dan il-bebbux żgħir tal-art imlembet huwa indiġenu għan-nofsinhar u l-punent tal-Mediterran. Imma ġie mdaħħal f’numru ta’ pajjiżi, bħal ngħidu aħna fil-lvant tal-Mediterran, bħall-Greċja, it-Turkija, l-Iżrael, u l-Eġittu. Iddaħħal ukoll fil-Gżejjer Brittaniċi u l-Irlanda. Saħansitra anki fl-Awstralja, fejn kif jiġri bi speċi imdaħħlin f’ambjent fejn ma jkunux jinstabu b’mod naturali, sar invażiv, jiġifieri beda joktor fis-selvaġġ b’impatti negattivi fuq l-ambjent naturali u l-fawna u l-flora tal-post.

Il-bebbux żgħir tal-art imlembet jgħix fuq ħamrija kalkarja ramlija, u jħobb inħawi niexfa qrib il-kosta miftuħa u għax-xemx, bħal għaram ramel, għalkemm jinstab f’numri akbar taħt arbuxelli u sġajjar u f’mergħat li ma jżommux ilma. Minħabba s-sħana tas-sajf huwa jorqod matul dawn ix-xhur billi jitla’ ma’ puntali, zkuk niexfa, friegħi tas-siġar u oġġetti oħrajn bil-ponta.

Fost il-fawna u l-flora li jqattgħu ix-xhur sħan tas-sajf reqdin, il-bebbux żgħir tal-art imlembet qatt ma jista’ jeħlisa min-nirien ta’ madwaru.

Hemm minn jaħseb li dan il-bebbux jagħmel xi ħsara lill-agrikultura. Dan għaliex meta huwa jkun rieqed u jinqala’ iħalli warajh bħal ġerha. Iżda din ma tagħmel l-ebda ħsara lill-pjanta li jkun rieqed fuqha.

Il-bebbux żgħir imlembet huwa komuni fil-gżejjer Maltin. Iżda dan ma jfissirx li ma għandniex nieħdu ħsiebu. Dan jiddependi mill-ambjent li jgħix fih. U nafu kif l-ambjent sejjer lura u qed jinqereda kuljum. Bħal dawn il-ġranet qed ikollna ħafna ħruq ta’ ambjenti naturali, kemm minħabba s-sħana naturali, kif ukoll minħabba nirien li jitqabbu u jaħarbu bla ħsieb, kif ukoll sfortunatament minn dawk li jitqabbu bil-ħsieb, li kollha kemm huma jqabbdu minn kull fejn jgħaddu jiġru u jsibu ħaxix niexef.

Dan l-aħħar xahar kellna ħafna minn dawn. Rajna nirien jaħkmu Binġemma, il-Mosta fil-parti tal-Wied tal-Isperanza, għelieqi f’Ħaż-Żebbug, u fil-ġimgħat li ġejjien bil-ħafna ħruq tan-nar marbut mal-festi, wieħed ma jeħodhiex bi kbira li jkun hemm aktar nirien.

Meta jkollna dawn in-nirien mhux la wieħed jgħid li l-ħsara mhux kbira daqs kemm wieħed stenna minħabba dak li jara, għaliex il-ħlejjaq ta’ flora u ta’ fawna li jgħixu qalb il-ħaxix niexef jew fil-ġnub tiegħu, jew inkella li jkunu reqdin għall-ġranet sħan tas-sajf, ma jkunx possibbli għalihom li jaħarbu jew li jeħilsu minn dawn in-nirien. Il-lembut żgħir tal-art huwa wieħed minn dawn l-annimali li ma jeħilsuhiex u dawk kollha li jkunu qed jistennew ix-xhur tax-xita biex jerġgħu jqumu u jkomplu joktru, kollha jinqerdu f’ħakka t’għajn. U magħhom jinqerdu wkoll fawna u flora oħra.

Għalhekk wieħed għandu jagħmel minn kollox biex dawn il-ħlejjaq li jaqsmu din l-art magħna ma jiġux meqruda minn pajjiżna aktar u aktar b’nuqqas ta’ ħsieb.

Ismijet xjentifkċi

Il-bebbux żgħir imlembet  – Cochlicella acuta – Pointed Snail


Lija oak cemetery

July 29, 2017

Friday, July 28, 2017

Lija Oak Cemetery

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The eight majestic, age-old indigenous Maltese oak trees at Lija are dead and buried. Gone at a great social, ecological, financial and political expense, which will get heavier with age. All the new-borns within the next decade will not be able to see any saplings planted today in their majesty as that commanded by the destroyed Lija oak trees.

One can attribute such a loss to lack of serious management of biodiversity, as well as lack of will towards the control of biodiversity loss and no extra efforts made to get them incorporated into the scheme.

No amount of tears will get the age-old oak trees in Lija back. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Unfortunately no amount of tears will get these age-old oak trees back. The best one can do in the circumstances is to pick up the saw dust and plan ahead. A plan of action is urgently needed, not only to ensure that such senseless destruction does not happen again, but also to ensure better professional management of Maltese biodiversity, to meet our national and international obligations in the conservation of indigenous species.

Such an action plan should not be a cosmetic one. Promising 20 saplings to make up for the age-old trees is tantamount to taking a €100 note from a child’s hand, and giving him twenty 50 cent coins, while trying to convince the child that he is now better off because previously he had one piece and now he has 20.

I am sure that the Maltese people are made up of much sterner stuff.

The present trees and woodland protection regulations are worse than the ones they replaced

Such an action plan has to be three pronged: legal, educational and hands on the ground.

The present trees and woodland protection regulations are worse than the ones they replaced. One such loophole even enables age-old indigenous trees to be chopped down with official blessings.

I just cannot understand what is keeping the Ministry for the Environment from publishing the much politically-promised regulations which would save so many indigenous trees and contribute to the local ecosystem, in line with the ministry’s aims for the protection of the environment.

The present trees and woodland protection regulations are worse than the ones they replaced

Is there a Cabinet decision against their publication? Is there any infighting? Are there some kind of fears? What is obvious is that their postponement is not helping in any way the local natural environment, especially trees.

The need for an educational campaign to create more public awareness of the appreciation and understanding of trees is badly needed too. The public cannot be blamed for thinking that there is an official hatred of trees, including indigenous ones, such as carob trees, Aleppo pines and holm oaks, a hatred which seems to have also infiltrated and is controlling official environment decisions, and the political mentality.

Because of this, official decisions are leading to more and more destruction of biodiversity. The benefits of trees are not only not understood, but unfortunately are ridiculed, and such a negative mentality cannot be in any way beneficial to society or to biodiversity, besides contributing to negative financial impacts.

One can neither be blamed for thinking that the Ministry for the Environment and the Environment and Resources Authority need to be seen to be more on the side of those who appreciate and protect trees and biodiversity in the national interest.

The wilful destruction of the Lija oak trees, with official blessing, is a case in point. Other similar instances include the destruction of the 60 mature olive trees at the University campus, and the mismanagement of the Natura 2000 site Buskett.

Finally the ever-increasing demand for indigenous Maltese trees, propagated from local Maltese stock, cannot be met because of the greater short-term financial gain from imported trees, despite the fact that their externalities, that is the hidden costs, are directly or indirectly borne by the local biodiversity and society in the long run.

The red-palm weevil, the geranium bronze butterfly, and the gene pollution of the indigenous sandarac-gum trees by imported specimens are some cases in point.

Such efforts in propagating indigenous Maltese trees from local stock is being left to voluntary, hardworking individuals, with little help, directly or indirectly, from the Ministry of the Environment.

No action plan can be achieved if there is no political will: a strong will based on ecological concepts arising from international obligations regarding biodiversity conservation, such as those of the Bern Convention and the EU policy driven by the biodiversity strategy setting ambitious aims for 2020 (halting the loss of biodiversity).

One can say that presently, with such incredibly uncontrolled destruction of indigenous trees, it is very difficult not to say that such a will is nowhere within sight, despite political commitments and promises.

The present rumours of the passing of landscaping responsibilities to the Ministry of the Environment can be a very positive step, because such ‘landscaping’ will be having a professional regulator from the biodiversity point of view, something which to date it does not have, or on which ERA found it too difficult to intervene.

But considering the present shallow interest and lack of will in the protection of biodiversity, these added responsibilities to the Ministry for the Environment can send shivers down one’s spine.

Till the time of writing, this is the fate of the majority of Maltese indigenous trees.

In the meantime, nature lovers can only keep wishing and hoping and praying, that the man at the helm will see the light of day and join, encourage and help them in their efforts to achieve such a noble, national aim in the protection of the environment in a tangible way.

Wouldn’t dare to say in a concrete way!

Alfred Baldacchino is a former assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.

See also:



Lija tree felling a result of Jose Herrera’s failure, environmentalist says – (2)

July 17, 2017

Alfred E Baldacchino

Monday 17th July, 2017

Following the publication of my comments in the press and on my blog on the destruction of indigenous old Holm oaks at Lija, the Hon. Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Jose Herrera, felt the need of a right of reply to correct some comments which he said are  “baseless and malicious”, at least directed to the heading .

The Ministers reply at least had one positive comment saying that he is: “not insensitive to the public outcry in this regard.”

I feel, as many others also do, that the destruction of such old trees is an insult to any biodiversity protection authorities, and when there is no effort or feeling to control such biodiversity loss, on the grounds that these were not protected, makes the insult more hurting.

The following is the reply by the Hon Minster for the Environment the Hon. Jose Herrera, which was published in the newspaper MaltaToday, beneath yesterday’s article.

And my reply sent to the newspaper follows.

Right of reply:

I take strong objection to this heading, where it will be shown that allegations made against me and my Ministry are totally baseless and malicious. In fact, one should take note of my persistent effort in favour of tree planting and aforestation, a process which I am determined to accelerate.​

The site in question is within scheme, and is not an Urban Conservation Area (UCA) nor a protected area. Thereby, given that the species of the trees (Quercus ilex) are listed in Schedule II, these specimens are not protected through the Trees and Woodlands (Protection) Regulations, 2011 (Legal Notice 200 of 2011, S.L. 549.64) and no permit from ERA is required for their removal from this site. 

Nonetheless, as a good practice, as part of ERA’s no objection issued, Transport Malta (TM) were made to compensate for the removal through donation of a number of trees to the local council.

However, I must state that I am not insensitive to the public outcry in this regard. Therefore, I will also explore the possibility of landscaping these new roads with the planting of new trees.

My reply:

What a sorry, puerile, statement by the Hon. Minster for the Environment Jose Herrera. What we, and especially me, were expecting was to hear about the efforts made by the Minister to save these historical old, indigenous Maltese trees, when there were more than one solution. None.

How can one accept the fact that a close to a hundred-year old indigenous tree, which was protected before the tree protection regulations were revoked, and which was suggested for total protection, was approved for destruction with no efforts to save it at all.

Anybody who has the protection of biodiversity at heart, in the national interest,  would be heart broken to see such destruction of indigenous old trees. The more so, one would also expect, the Minister responsible for the environment with the responsibility to see and stop biodiversity loss. But… it seems, not in Malta.

In my opinion this is complete failure. And I repeat it. It is a complete failure by the environment authorities that be. The more so when the Hon, Minister speaks about replacing the old Holm Oaks by a score of sapling, unless he would have to rely on imported stuff.

And we were also expecting that the Hon. Minister would have immediately set the ball rolling for the publication of the much promised and awaited tree protection regulations which would save so many indigenous trees. But no word about this either. There is no mention to his “determination and acceleration” efforts towards the publishing of these regulations.

May I ask what is keeping the Hon Minister from publishing these regulations, despite the fact that these were on his his desk from day one he took over from his predecessor, and despite all his public statements that he will soon be publishing them? Are his hands tied? Does he have a real will to publish them? Or is he under pressure from any individual or entity for specific commercial reasons?

That is what we expected to hear. We all know how much he is involved in paper talk, with no resulting positive environmental protection actions. His statement confirms this.

The Hon Minister’s statement really confirms and gives more strength to my comments. Everybody knows about the loop holes the present tree protection regulations have, drafted to the music of his predecessor from the other side of the political fence.

It is positive to read that the Hon Minister for the Environment is “not insensitive to the public outcry in this regard.” When the Hon Minister decides, and if he want to discuss the matter further, I am ready and willing to discuss the real protection, education, and technical regulations to reach such aims in the national and biodiversity interest.

It is up to the Hon Minister to decide. We have had enough of paper talk seeing indigenous trees falling down to the chainsaw, and replaced by imported invasive species. 

see also:   Lija tree felling a result of Jose Herrera’s failure, environmentalist says – (1)