Tree protection laws ‘pruned for developers’

June 1, 2018

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Ivan Martin

Robust laws protecting trees were “pruned” years ago and fresh efforts by this government to revive them left a lot to be desired, a veteran environmental expert told the Times of Malta.

“It is obvious trees are seen as an obstacle to development and roadworks. Why else would this administration be taking so long to reverse a decision, made by their predecessors, if not to continue facilitating construction,” the former deputy director at the environment protection directorate, Alfred Baldacchino, said.

Conservationists on Tuesday called for an investigation into the needless “massacre” of trees in various localities, saying the laws had to be bolstered.

A number of trees – some of them landmarks – were removed from urban areas over the past weeks, including 14 mulberry trees in Victoria, a Holm oak tree just outside the Upper Barrakka, in Valletta, and the iconic carob tree in Villa Forte Garden, Lija.

Mr Baldacchino said the scaling back of the protective status enjoyed by various tree species had started as a result of pressure on successive administrations by the construction and roadworks lobbies.

He was among the officials responsible for drafting the Trees and Woodlands (Protection) Regulations back in 2001. This included a list of about 54 species that could not be removed.

Mr Baldacchino said that although the original law contained loopholes that allowed protected trees to be uprooted or chopped down if special permission was obtained, the authorities still came under pressure from “certain interests” to amend the law.

“Eventually, the government gave in and, in 2011, the law I had drafted was amended. I protested at the decision but, ultimately, this is what happened,” Mr Baldacchino recalled.

The list of 54 protected types of trees was cut by half to 27

The list of 54 protected types of trees was cut by half to 27 and some clauses were reworded. A section of the original law, protecting “all trees older than 50 years” irrespective of whether they were on the protected list or not, was removed entirely.

The government last February announced plans to review the laws protecting trees and woodlands, however, although a public consultation period closed in March, Mr Baldacchino pointed out there was still no word on when the reformed law would be enacted.

“This is what happens in this country, we drag our feet and, in the meantime, old trees are cut down to make way for slightly wider roads or someone else wanting to enlarge a garage,” Mr Baldacchino said.

The remains of the iconic carob tree in Villa Forte Garden, Lija. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

A spokesman for Environment Minister Josè Herrera said the government was addressing the situation from “a policy and implementation aspect”.

New regulations on the protection of trees would be submitted to the Cabinet in the coming weeks, he added.

Meanwhile, sources at the Environment and Resources Authority said complaints on the cutting down of trees had been received in recent weeks and a meeting on the matter was scheduled to be held in the next few days.


Some photographic evidence of recently destroyed trees 

The iconic 300 year old carob tree at Lija. According to comments by the Ministry for the Environment, responsible for the protection of trees, this tree was not protected. So it was chopped down to make way for a garage.


This historic tree Holm Oak indigenous Maltese tree, at the entrance of the Upper Barrakka gardens, adjacent to the Office of the Prime Minster, had withstood World War II, but did not withstand the decision of the Ministry for the Environment responsible for the protection of trees. It was chopped and destroyed during the silent hours of the night.

In a statement, the Ministry for the Environment, responsible for the protection of trees, said that “the tree had been sick and deteriorating fast, especially following strong winds in the past weeks” (sic.). (TOM, May 30, 2018).

A line of eight old Holm Oaks at Lija, including one 100 years old, were all chopped down after the Minster for the Environment, responsible for the protection of trees, confirmed that these trees were not protected.



After my attention was drawn by the public to this cypress tree which was damaged by winds, I drew the attention of the Environment and Resource Authority, in the Ministry for the Environment, so that measures could be taken to save the tree. The now short standard reply from the Ministry of the Environment, responsible for the protection of trees, was: “Ġentilment ninfurmak li s-siġra taċ-Ċipress f’Santa Venera mhix protetta u għaldaqstant ma tirrikjedix permess.”  (We would like to kindly inform you that the Cypress tree in Santa Venera is not protected, and as such it does not need any permit).!!

A tamarix tree on the Sliema promenade disappeared during the night. No comments from the Ministry for the Environment responsible for the protection of trees, except that government workers were seem on the following morning clearing up the mess.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Josè Herrera said the government was addressing the situation from “a policy and implementation aspect”.


other related articles:


‘Destroying trees to make way for cars is a big mistake’

May 25, 2018

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Destroying trees to make way for cars is a big mistake’

Keith Micallef

The destruction of trees to accommodate the increasing number of cars was a short-term solution with long-term environmental and health repercussions, a biodiversity expert and an NGO have warned.

Alfred Baldacchino and Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar were approached by the Times of Malta in view of plans to uproot a kilometre of trees along the Addolorata Cemetery hill in Paola. The trees have been earmarked for destruction to make way for a new underpass at the Santa Luċija roundabout.

Trees were also recently uprooted to make way for the multilevel junction under construction in Marsa and the widening of Lija’s high street.

Both the FAA and Mr Baldacchino questioned the government’s strategy of addressing traffic congestion by widening arterial roads and building new junctions, like the one at Kappara.

“That approach will just result in traffic bottlenecks being shifted elsewhere without actually addressing the source of the problem, which is the increasing number of vehicles on the road,” FAA chairman Paul Cardona said.

His views were echoed by Mr Baldacchino, who criticised the project as the product of successive governments’ lack of vision.

He pointed out there had been no efforts to compensate for the loss of trees. Moreover, he threw cold water on efforts to replant uprooted trees elsewhere, saying it was a very costly exercise with low success rates.

He noted that, on average, it cost €500 to transplant a tree. “It would probably be more cost effective to use the funds on afforestation projects and other initiatives meant to combat climate change and safeguard local ecology,” he pointed out.

Mr Baldacchino expressed frustration that the authorities had not been forthcoming about a series of proposals he submitted some time ago.

He also questioned the goverment’s political will to protect the environment. “The loss of indigenous species, which are being replaced by imported ones, makes me wonder if this is based on an unofficial decision made at Cabinet level,” Mr Baldacchino said. “Future generations will pay a hefty price for these mistakes,” he warned.

Mr Cardona of FAA called for bold decisions to discourage the use of private cars, such as introducing congestion charges in areas like Valletta.

“Replanting uprooted trees elsewhere is a very costly exercise with low rates of success”

“In countries like Singapore, the solution was to address the oversaturation of cars on the roads, not building tunnels and bridges. The problem must be tackled at source by forcing people to use the bus to avoid congestion charges:’ he said, adding that as long as commuters kept using private cars, buses would remain stuck in traffic.

“The bottom line is that having a greater number of cars on the road will only result in more toxic emissions – which, in turn, will increase the incidence of cancer in the Maltese islands,” Mr Cardona said.


Trees hit headlines

May 4, 2018

Trees hit headlines

Friday May 4, 2018

Alfred E  Baldacchino

The last couple of months saw trees in the news.

Following the collapse, on February 10, of a mismanaged, unprofessionally pruned alien tree on the Mrieħel road, which led to the death of a foreigner, a spokesman for an entity paid out of public funds, was interviewed on a local TV station. He did not deny that the management of the trees in that particular road was their responsibility.

Photo: (Times of Malta) Jonathan Borg

April 9 saw another fatal accident in Żurrieq where a double-decker tourist bus “hit low-lying tree branches resulting in two dead tourists, 50 injured and some ending in intensive care, one needing a  major operation” (Times of Malta, April 10).

“Transport watchdog has long recognised trees as road hazards” read a heading in this newspaper (April 15). It referred to an “EU directive regarding road safety audits, impact assessments, inspections and high-frequency collision investigations”. The guidelines drawn in the light of this EU directive, outlined the fact that trees and landscaping are a “potential roadside hazard” and “need to be taken into account”.

In all honesty, the transport watchdog does not have the necessary acumen, adequate paraphernalia or professional personnel to plan, monitor, and professionally manage roadside trees. They rely on contractors.

Trees do not grow on their own in urban areas. They are planted, monitored and managed by contractors paid from public funds. So it is not the trees that are road hazards. It is the contractors who are responsible for their upkeep, ensuring that trees are managed aesthetically, professionally, and not posing a road hazard.

Trees do not move from the place where they are planted. If a tree has a 15- year-old branch protruding onto the road, it is not the fault of the tree, but that of unprofessional management. Even schoolchildren are today conscious and aware of proper tree management.

Following the ever-increasing negative impacts of such mismanagement and lack of awareness of international biodiversity obligations, a copy of the agreement for landscaping was requested on June 23, 2015. An agreement which the government and a private-public partner signed on October 31, 2012.

This request was vehemently refused by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (under Joe Mizzi) on  July 23, 2015, as was the subsequent appeal, on August 13, 2015.

On August 19, 2015, the matter was referred to the Information and Data Protection Commissioner. The commissioner’s decision of January 19, 2016 “considers that the public interest is better served by providing the applicant with a copy of the requested document” and “the commissioner has resolved that there are no impediments to release a copy of the agreement.

“Hence in the spirit of transparency and accountability as contemplated by the Act, the MTI [Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure] is instructed to acceed to Mr Baldacchino’s request by not later than twenty-five (25) working days from the receipt of this decision”.

One would have thought that such a matter would have been solved within weeks. But it seems, not in Malta

Subsequently a letter from the commissioner informed me that an appeal by the ministry (still under Mizzi) had been lodged to the Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal.

Almost two years from the initial request, the Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal decided, refusing the appeal made by the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure, confirming the decision reached by the Commissioner of Information and Data Protection, ordering that a copy of such agreement signed between the government and ELC on October 31, 2001 should be given to applicant.

The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure in 2017 said that legal proceedings were instituted by the ELC (Environment Landscaping Consortium) before the first hall of the Civil Court, “arguing that the decision of the Commissioner for the Protection of Data should be declared null and void”. Judgement had to be reached in December 2017, but the sitting has already been postponed twice.

As a member of the European Union, and also a signatory to the Aarhus Convention (Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters), one would have thought that such a matter would have been solved within weeks. But it seems, not in Malta.

What is the reason for such objections? The National Audit Office (NAO) published a ‘Performance Audit: Landscaping maintenance through a Public-Private Partnership’, dated September 2017. This throws a lot of light on possible reasons.

Topics covered in such report deal with: the non-availability of management accounts; no details regarding questions asked; contractor’s evident non-compliance on a number of issues; the government’s limited enforcement actions; arising questions regarding the financial and economic considerations revolving around the agreement; the non-submission of management accounts constituting a contractual breach; government’s lack of knowledge of the contractor’s financial input not conducive to a balanced partnership;

Contract rates higher than other landscaping agreements signed by governmental entities; operational and financial information gaps not appropriately safeguarding the government’s position as a partner within this agreement; contractual deficiencies that incorporated two subsequent addenda, as well as a number of elements of contractual non-compliance, generally, having their roots within the 2002 contract, beside others.

One of the conclusion the NAO report came to is that: “The contractor’s non-compliance remains evident on a number of issues. In some cases, deviations from contractual clauses that date back to 2002 impact negatively on government’s direct and broader interests.

One of the invasive species, Penisetum or Fountain grass, planted and paid by public funds, which is today spreading uncontrolled along roadsides, valleys, and other natural habitats. The social, ecological and financial negative impacts have to be paid by the man in the street.

“Contractual non-compliance prevailed in the face of government’s limited enforcement action. In such circumstances, government’s position shifted from one where action could be initiated to dissolve this PPP Agreement, to one where prolonged weak enforcement implied tacit consent” (page 55).

To these financial observations, the immediate and long-term negative impacts on the Maltese ecosystem must also be taken in consideration.

What is the next immediate step? The Minister for Finance has to decide: either the dissolution of the agreement in the national interest, or the dishing out of an additional €8 million for the continuation of the implied tacit consent of such non-compliance.

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

further readings:







Ktieb fuq Siġar Maltin

April 4, 2018
Baldacchino, A.E. (2018) Siġar Maltin – tagħrif, tnissil, ħarsien, għajdut.     Klabb Kotba Maltin. 226 pps +  xxv.

Trid tkun taf aktar fuq is-siġar Maltin li jlibbsu u jżejnu pajjiżna?  Trid issir tagħraf aktar kemm dawn jgħinnuna? Trid tgħin biex ikun hawn aktar għarfien u aktar apprezzament lejn dan il-wirt naturali? Naħseb li mela dan il-ktieb jinteressak. Dan għadu kif ġie ppublikat illum, L-Erbgħa, 4 ta’ April 2018. Aħseb għall-kopja kmieni. Iktibli jekk ikollok xi diffikultà biex issibu. Niżżik ħajr tal-għajnuna tiegħek biex flimkien inħarsu dak li ġejna mislufa.

  • Jagħti tagħrif wiesa’ fuq is-siġar u jidħol aktar fil-fond fuq xi speċi indiġeni Maltin.
  • Jiġbor tagħrif fuq il-ħajja tas-siġar u l-ambjent naturali tagħhom, kif dawn jistgħu jitnisslu u saħansitra jintużaw fit-tisbiħ tal-art.
  • Juri ritratt bil-kulur ta’ kull speċi msemmija, kif ukoll taz-zokk, tal-werqa, tal-fjura u taż-żerriegħa.
  • Jagħti tagħrif ukoll fuq kif dawn kienu jintużaw fil-mediċina tradizzjonali, kif jissemmew fil-mitoloġija u fil-Bibbja.
  • Jissemmew ukoll il-prinċipji tal-ħarsien, l-użu u l-immaniġġar tas-siġar u t-theddid minn speċi invażivi.
  • Ifiehem l-obbligi dwar il-ħarsien tas-siġar u l-ambjent naturali tagħhom – kemm dirett kif ukoll indirett – li Malta għandha bħala msieħba f’numru ta’ ftehimiet internazzjonali u anki dawk bħala Pajjiż Imsieħeb fl-Unjoni Ewropea.

Il-ktieb jagħti wkoll ħarsa lejn il-liġijiet tal-ħarsien tas-siġar: mill-ewwel regolament li ġie ppubblikat fil-Gżejjer Maltin sa dawk li hemm fis-seħħ illum.

Siġar Maltin – tagħrif, tnissil, ħarsien, għidut huwa ta’ għajnuna għall-għalliema u dawk kollha li jixtiequ jkunu jafu aktar dwar is-siġar, jew biex jgħallmu aktar l-imħabba u l-għarfien tagħhom bħala parti mill-ħajja naturali li taqsam din l-art magħna.

għal aktar pubblikazzjonijiet fuq il-biodiversità Maltija ara:

Story of an apple tree

February 6, 2018

Monday, 6th February, 2018

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Ancient documents describing creation of Planet Earth and man’s responsibility.

It all started in a garden, designed on a dynamic ecological balance between living species and their physical environment. Ancient documents call it the Garden of Eden. We know it as Planet Earth.

Following million upon million of years, an intelligent species evolved, so intelligent that its Creator felt the need to advice it.  Ancient biblical documents explain such advice limiting the use of the garden, and not to touch the apple tree. The intelligence was warned that it would be expelled from the garden if it went over this limit.

The everlasting message to the ‘most’ intelligent species on the planet.

The greed of this intelligence, increased beyond any control, greedy for more and more power and materialism. Egoism led the species not only to exceed the limit, but to mutilate, decimate and even uproot and destroy the apple tree – the safeguarding of life in the garden.

Basic principles which bound such intelligence – referred to in ancient documents as the Ten Commandments – were not only ignored and ridiculed, but what these forbade became the rule of law: deceit, murder, robbery, rape, hate; some even regarded as qualifications for success, and even a place in governments.

The natural products of the planet are not good enough for the greed of power and materialism.

The foundations of life on the Planet became victims of such intelligence: exploited, polluted, and raped, without any reasonable justification, except to satisfy greed. The ecosystem was not found good enough for the use of such intelligence.

Organisms were genetically modified for more profit motives. Toxic chemicals were sprayed haphazardly to kill what was not needed, or which competed with commercial interests. Commercial ventures played with toxic chemical concoctions, justified by some PhDs as producing more inexpensive food for the people – a Hobson choice for the guinea pigs of commercial greed.

Toxic waste filled the oceans, dispersed in the air and covered the land, all in the name of progress and the benefit of the people.

The spraying of pesticides, the emission of toxic gases, the dumping of toxic liquid and solid waste, the toxic waste covering ecological habitat, the ever increasing expansion of plastics waste, are the results of man’s blindfolded march for greed of power and materialism.

Now oceans belch toxic and plastic waste. Land and fresh water succumb to toxicity, while the atmosphere, also considered as a dumping place for toxic waste, reacts with the physical environment of this ecosystem, disrupting the dynamic ecological balance. Everything is given a monetary price tag, except the ecosystem.

One influential political leader with such intelligence trumpets that all this is fake news aimed at destabilising the world’s economy. Other politicians follow in his footsteps proclaiming that as long as the economy is doing fine, there is nothing to worry about.

Pygmy politicians finding a back seat on the political bandwagon, accuse those genuinely concerned with the social and ecological degradation, as fundamentalists and Jacobins.

The ever increasing signs from Planet Earth flashing out their warning, strengthened by man’s greed and egoism.

And the people bowed and prayed, to this mammon god they made. And though the signs flash out their warnings, with disasters that are forming, the words of scientists are met with scorn, as fiction porn, while the sound of silence, which like cancer grows, shatters Planet Earth, with the applause of a square-circled mentality hailing their leaders as saviours of humanity.

Mother earth sighed, mother earth tried, and mother earth cried. But the intelligence is convinced that it needs no Creator to direct it, no ecosystem to sustain it, and no other intelligence to advice it. It is supreme and rules, decides and programmes life on planet Earth in the name of greed for power, consumerism and materialism.

Planet Earth has never faced such an intelligence which revolts and questions its Creator, and which has the power to destroy itself. This does not worry Planet Earth at all. It needs nobody from its creation to save it. It can take care of itself without any problems.

Who would have thought that dinosaurs would disappear in a bat of the eye.

During the Jurassic period that spanned 56 million years, ending 145 million years ago, Dinosaurs, the strongest gigantic species, dominated the Planet. Evolution of smaller modern feathered dinosaurs, birds, saw the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Who would have thought that such creatures would go extinct? In the ongoing evolution on Planet Earth, this was just a bat of the eye.

No species can survive if it does not respect this dynamic balance which supports it. There is a limit which no species can ignore or abuse of.

The first fossils of today’s intelligence appeared around 55 million years ago: a relatively young species. Today this intelligence is on the warpath with the ecosystem which sustains it, blinded by egoism, greed and arrogance. A more evolved future intelligence will have ample archaeological material to evaluate and study.

Terrestrial, marine or atmospheric waste dumps, including fossilised bones riddled with holes adjacent to monstrous mass-killing machines, without doubt will offer more than enough evidence leading to the extinction of a species which dominated the Anthropocene – the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

Some intelligent affluent rats, head buried in the sand, where they only see their accumulated riches and account balances, may no doubt loudly blare that this is a vision of doom and gloom, fake news, which can only destabilise the world’s economy. Another arrogant characteristic contributing to the demise of such intelligence.

Those who are concerned with life on this planet and can relate the scientific, social, and spiritual attributes of the ecosystem, consider this as a part of evolution in this ‘Garden’.

Political blocks, displaying golden or silver stars on blue backgrounds, owe their existence to parochialism ingrained on power and materialism. In no way will any star help the delicate dynamic ecological balance. Planet Earth does not have or need any such intelligent parochial acumen.

Fossil from the distant past and from the near future.


The dinosaurs have come and gone, remembered for their gigantic size and strength. This intelligence has come and will go, remembered for inventing and perfecting the wheel, but not intelligent enough to avoid being the victim of its own intelligence.

It has been said that insects have seen man come and they will see man go, Monsanto or not. Evolution will take care and put in place this egoistic intelligence convinced that it is not anymore part of the ecosystem: it is superior and more intelligent than the ecosystem itself.

The message from the ecosystem will still live on and on and on.

The story of the apple tree will still remain the concept of all life in this garden. No species can survive if it does not respect this dynamic balance which supports it. There is a limit which no species can ignore or abuse of.

Għajdut, drawwiet u twemmin fil-gżejjer Maltin

January 30, 2018

It-Tlieta 30 ta’ Jannar 2018

Għajdut, drawwiet u twemmin fil-gżejjer Maltin

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Meta  l-bniedem rifes fuq dawn il-gżejjer għall-ewwel darba, dawn kienu sinjuri fil-biodiversità, jiġifieri, fil-flora u l-fawna u l-ambjent naturali tagħhom. Madwar dan is-seher il-bniedem bena daru. Minħabba li mhux dejjem kien jifhem dawn l-għeġubijiet tan-natura li saħħruh, madwarhom sawwar numru ta’ stejjer fuq kif kien jifhem u kif kien jara dan il-wirt naturali.

Minbarra li l-biodiversità qdietu billi tatu l-ikel, tatu kenn fuq rasu u l-ilbies biex jitgħatta, il-bniedem użaha wkoll biex jipprova jħares lil saħħtu u jbiegħed minnu l-ħażen u l-ispirti ħżiena. Il-biodiversità għenitu wkoll biex ibassar it-temp, u anki bħala mod ta’ pjaċir. Dawn l-għajdut u d-drawwiet dwar il-biodiversità li l-bniedem sawwar f’moħħu baqgħu neżlin bil-fomm minn xjuħ għat-tfal. Sal-lum niltaqgħu ma’ ħafna minn dawn l-għajdut, drawwiet u twemmin li huma kollha msawwra mal-biodiversità, uħud marbuta mal-mitoloġija u anki mar-reliġjonijiet.


Is-sriep minn dejjem kellhom rabta kemm mar-reliġjonijiet, mal-għajdut u anki mat-twemmin. Dan mhux f’pajjiżna biss imma wkoll madwar id-dinja.

Il-bniedem kien iħares lejn is-sriep bħala ħlejqiet li kellhom setgħa maġika u sopranaturali. Dan għaliex is-sriep jimxu mingħajr ma għandhom saqajn, u fuq kull tip ta’ materjal, ħaxix u saħansitra anki jgħumu fl-ilma. Huma jaqbdu l-priża mingħajr għajnuna ta’ ebda driegħ. Matul ħajjithom ibiddlu l-libsa qadima tagħhom billi joħorġu minnha u jidhru bi lwien aktar sbieħ. Huma jgħibu matul il-ġranet kesħin tax-xitwa u jerġgħu jitfaċċaw fir-rebbiegħa. Uħud minnhom għandhom is-saħħa li joqtlu anki l-bniedem, jew inkella jġibu l-mard b’gidma waħda.

Kulturi differenti tal-bniedem wasslu biex bdew iħarsu lejn is-sriep b’mod ferm differenti, dejjem skont il-kultura li l-bniedem jitla’ fiħa. Hemm minn għandu stima kbira lejhom; u hemm minn jistmerrhom.

Ngħidu aħna, fil-qedem l-Ażteki fl-Amerika Ċentrali kienu jaduraw is-serp  għaliex kienu jqisuh bħala l-imgħallem tal-ħajja. Anki xi kulturi Afrikani kienu jaduraw serp, il-piton tal-Afrika, u kienu jqisuh delitt li xi ħadd joqtol wieħed minnhom. L-Aboriġini Awstaljani kienu jqisu serp li jinstab fl-Awstralja bħala rabta mal-ħolqien tal-ħajja[1].

Is-simbolu tal-mediċina moderna

Fil-mitoloġija Griega, Merkurju, il-messaġġier tal-allat, kien iġorr għasluq li madwaru kellu żewġt isriep. Din il-kultural Griega kienet tħares lejn is-serp b’rabta ma’ poteri mediċianli. Dan għaliex skont il-kultura Griega, il-mediċina issejset meta l-alla grieg tal-mediċina Askepju kien ra serp li kien jieħu pjanti mediċnali biex ifejjaq serp ieħor lura għall-ħajja. Dan wassal biex illum is-simbolu tal-mediċina moderna huwa magħmul minn żewġt isriep mdawra ma’ għasluġ.

Ir-Rumani, bħall-Griegi, kienu jqisu serp ta’ Askepju bħala simbolu tas-saħħa u kienu jeħduh magħhom biex jitilquh ħdejn il-banjijiet fil-pajjiżi kolonji tagħhom. Kien serp li kien imħares mir-Rumani.

Imma kulturi oħra, bħal dik tagħna, Ġudeo-Kristjana, iħarsu lejn is-serp b’mod differenti kompletament. Wieħed ma jkunx qed jgħid xejn ħażin meta jgħid li dan in-nuqqas ta’ rispett f’din il-kultura tagħna jiġi muri lejn il-ħlejjaq kollha li ħalaq il-Ħallieq. Dan narawh mill-ewwel rakkont miktub dwar il-waqa’ tal-bniedem u t-telfa tal-Ġenna tal-Art. Kollu tort ta’ serp li minħabba fih il-bniedem safa’ mkeċċi mill-ġnien tal-Eden.

U b’din il-kultura ta’ nuqqas ta’ apprezzament, is-sriep huma mistmerra. Dan it-twemmin f’pajjiżna, kompla ssaħħaħ bla dubju ta’ xejn bir-rakkont fl-Atti tal-Appostli dwar il-miġja ta’ San Pawl fil-gżejjer Maltin – rabta diretta marbuta mar-religjon u ma’ San Pawl, li kif jingħad ġabilna l-fidi f’pajjiżna.

Naqraw fl-Atti tal-Appostli[2] li fis-sena 60 wara Kristu, waqt tempesta kbira, il-ġifen li fuqu kien hemm San Pawl, inkalja l-art f’pajjiżna. Kif naqraw fl-Atti miktuba minn San Luqa, San Pawl u dawk kollha miegħu fuq il-ġifen, għamu lejn l-art u kollha salvaw. Kif hemm miktub, biex jisħnu ftit mill-kesħa, tqabbad xi nar. Meta San Pawl tefa’ xi għesieleġ fin-nar ħarġet lifgħa u qabdet ma’ idu.

Lifgħa – bħal dik li jingħad li qabdet ma’ idejn San Pawl.

Meta n-nies indiġeni raw li San Pawl ma ġralu xejn, min dakinhar ’l hawn, il-Maltin bdew jemmnu li minħabba li San Pawl ma waqax mejjet wara li qabdet miegħu lifgħa, allura dan neħħa l-velenu mis-sriep. Din nisimgħuha anki f’xi prietki u paneġierki fil-festa ta’ San Pawl. Dawn jagħtu aktar saħħa lil dan it-twemmin.

Dan huwa r-riżultat ta’ nuqqas ta’ edukazzjoni u tagħrif xjentifku ta’ min jaħseb hekk. U dan wassal ukoll biex is-sriep intrabtu max-xitan, mal-ħażen u mad-dnub. U dan mhux f’pajjiżna biss, imma anki fl-Irlanda, li huwa pajjiż Kattoliku bħalna, fejn hemm it-twemmin li San Patriżju tefa’ is-sriep kollha f’għadira kbira. Fl-Irlanda ma hemmx sriep.

Il-lifgħa, u tlett isriep l-oħra li huma indiġeni għall-gżejjer Maltin, ma humiex endemiċi, jiġifieri ma jinstabux biss fil-gżejjer Maltin. Imma jistabu wkoll fil-pajjiżi Mediterranji tal-madwar.  U dawn is-sriep indiġeni qatt ma kienu velenużi; qatt ma kellhom il-boroż f’ħalqhom li jkun fihom il-velenu b’saħħtu daqshekk li jista’ joqtol bniedem[1] [3].

Hemm min jgħid li s-serp li gidem lil San Pawl kien wieħed li kien daħal Malta ma’ xi merkanzija. Hemm min isostni li l-ispeċi ta’ dan is-serp għebet mill-pajjiż. Oħrajn huma tal-fehma li s-serp kien il-lifgħa li d-dbabar tal-kuluri tagħha jixbħu xi serp velenuż mhux Malti[4]. Hemm saħansitra minn jemmen li l-gżira li fuqha inkalja l-ġifen ta’ San Pawl ma kinetx Malta, imma gżira oħra Melita fl-Adriatiku, fejn jinstab serp velenuż.

Sal-lum il-ġurnata l-biċċa kbira tal-Maltin jistmerru u jobgħodu s-sriep u jaħarbuhom jew joqtluhom jekk jiltaqgħu magħhom.

Wara l-miġja ta’ San Pawl it-twemmin dwar is-sriep velenużi, li għadda bil-fomm minn xjuħ għat-tfal, wassal ukoll biex xi wħud jemmnu li San Pawl mhux biss neħħa l-velenu mis-sriep tal-gżira, imma jemmnu wkoll li sriep oħra li jinġabu minn barra minn Malta ma jibqgħux velenużi u jmutu hekk kif jaslu f’pajjiżna. M’iniex tal-parir li jekk jinġieb xi serp velenuż hawn Malta xi ħadd itiħ sebgħu biex jara dan hux minnu!

Il-fantasija, it-twemmin u l-għajdut fuq San Pawl u s-sriep velenużi ma waqafx hawn.

Kif jingħad ukoll, sakemm dam hawn Malta San Paul kien joqgħod ir-Rabat fil-grotta li llum magħrufa bħala ta’ San Pawl. U sakemm dam hemm kellu wkoll is-setgħa fuq il-gdim minn sriep velenużi, tant li l-blat tal-franka li minnu kienet magħmula l-grotta sar magħruf bħala Terra melitensis. Biċċiet minn dan il-blat kien jitfarrak fi trab fin, li kien jitpoġġa ġo vażetti tal-fuħħar jew tal-irħam. It-trab kien jixxarrab bl-ilma, u wara li din l-għabra kienet titħawwad sewwa, kienet tissaffa minn vażett għall-ieħor u mbagħad kienet tiġi mgħarbla b’karta żejtnija. Minn naqal li kien jibqa’ kienu jsiru tazzi, vażuni u oġġetti oħra li kif kien jingħad kienu jgħinu biex ifejqu lil dawk li kienu jkunu taħt xi effett ta’ velenu kif ukoll kontra l-mard. Kien hemm talba kbira għal din it-Terra melitensis. Dan kollu kien taħt il-kontroll tal-Granmastru tal-Ordni ta’ San Ġwann jew tal-Awtorità tal-Knisja[3].

Il-qlajjiet, it-twemmin marbuta mar-reliġjon ma għandhom l-ebda tmiem.  Dejjem marbuta mal-miġja ta’ San Pawl f’dawn il-gżejjer, ir-riq ta’ dawk li kienu twieldu nhar il-festa tal-konverżjoni ta’ San Pawl kien ukoll meqjus u użat għall-kura tal-gdim tas-sriep u anki l-infjammazzjoni[3].



Il-wiżgħa hija rettilu ieħor, mill-familja tal-gremxul. Fil-gżejjer Maltin insibu żewġ speċi: il-wisgħa tad-dar, u l-wiżgħa tal-kampanja. Dawn, bħal ma jagħmlu s-sriep, ibiddlu l-qoxrithom, għaliex din ma tikbirx magħhom u allura joħorġu minnha.

Imma filwaqt li s-sriep joħorġu mill-qoxra l-qadima tagħhom u jħalluha kważi sħiħa warajhom, dik tal-wiża’ titqaxxar ftit ftit sakemm taqa’. Din tkun qoxra fina ħafna u tinqasam ftit ftit biex tgħin lill-wiżgħa toħroġ mill-qoxra l-qadima b’qoxra ġdida. Ġieli jidhru xi wiża’ li fuqhom ikollhom il-fdalijiet ta’ din il-qoxra qadima u fina. U anki hawn, minħabba nuqqas ta’ edukazzjoni u tagħrif xjentifiku, hemm minn jaħseb u jemmem li l-wiża’ għandhom xi rabta mal-mard tal-ġilda l-aktar mal-ġdim. Dan minħabba xebh bejn id-dehra tal-ġilda ma’ dawk li jkollhom il-ġdim u dawk li jsofru mill-marda tal-ġilda magħrufa bħala psoriasis li l-effetti tagħha jidhru bħala rqajja ħomor, bil-qxur li jqabbdu l-ħakk.

Tant kien b’saħħtu dan it-twemmin li n-naturalista Ġużeppi Despott ma kienx ikollu għajuna mit-tfal biex iġibhulu xi wiża’ biex jistudja fuqhom.


Il-gremxul ukoll huma rettili. U bħar-rettili l-oħra tal-gżejjer Maltin hemm ukoll qlajjiet u twemmin fuqhom. Ħafna huma tal-fehma li l-gremxula ta’ Filfla għandha żewġt idnub [1][8].


Hawnhekk ta’ min jgħid li l-gremxul u l-wiża’ meta jkunu mhedda jew jiġu attakkati minn xi għadu jistgħu jwaqqgħu denbhom. Meta denbom jinqata’ mill-parti tal-ġisem, dan jibqa’ jitkagħweġ. Hemm min jgħid li dan ikun qed jidgħi, imma d-denb jibqa’ jiċċaqlaq biex l-għadu, waqt li jkun qed iħares lejn id-denb maqtugħ jitkagħweġ, jagħti ħin biżżejjed biex il-gremxula jew il-wiżgħa tkun tista’ taħrab. Id-denb jista’ jinqata’ ukoll waqt xi ġlied li jkun hemm bejn il-gremxul dwar it-territorju jew għal xi sieħba. Il-gremxula jew il-wiżgħa terġa ttella denb ġdid, imma jista’ jiġri li d-denb mhux dejjem jinqata’ barra sħiħ u ġieli jibqa’ mdendel jew imwaħħal bi ftit mal-ġisem. Hekk meta jitla’ d-denb il-ġdid il-gremxula tista’ tagħti ’l wieħed x’jifhem li għandha żewġt idnub.

Fuq il-gżira ta’ Filfla hemm gremxula, bħal dik ta’ Malta imma tant ilha maqtugħa minn dawk li jgħixu fuq il-gżejjer Maltin l-oħra li hija meqjusa bħala razza għaliha. Kif nafu, il-gżira ta’ Filfla kienet tintuża mill-Ingliżi li kienu jisparaw fuqha biex jitħarrġu. U għalhekk ma kinetx tkun xi ħaġa stramba li xi gremxul kienu jitilfu denbhom f’dak it-tifrik. Xi studjuż li kien mar jistudja dawn il-gremxul ra xi waħda b’żewgt idnub u ġriet il-kelma u ssaħħaħ it-twemmin li l-gremxul ta’ Filfla għandu żewġt idnub.

Tant issaħħaħ dan l-ghajdut li niftakar darba, madwar 35 sena ilu, kont qed nara programm fuq l-istazzjon nazzjonali tat-TV; kien programm ta’ kwiżż, fejn skola kienet teħodha kontra oħra dwar tagħrif ġenerali. Niftakar li l-preżentatur, li kien għalliem, staqsa lil wieħed mill-kompetituri x’kellha speċjali l-gremxula ta’ Filfla. L-istudent fil-pront qal li l-gremxula ta’ Filfla hija endemika għall-Filfla, tweġiba li ma setgħetx tkun aħjar. Imma l-preżentatur ma kienx kuntent u reġa staqsa lill-istudent: “imma din x’għandha speċjali?” L-istudent baqa’  mbellaħ u ma kellux tweġiba. Skont l-għalliem preżentatur, it-tweġiba kellha tkun li l-grexmula ta’ Filfla għandha żewġt idnub! Minkejja r-rabja li nibtet fija, indunajt li kien hemm xaqq dawl għall-edukazzjoni xjentifika f’dan il-pajjiż.


Ir-rettili tal-art tal-gżejjer Maltin kollha għandhom xi qlajja fuqhom jew xi twemmin, jew kienu jintużaw b’xi mod, ħlief wieħed: il-kamaleonte. U hemm raġuni għal dan, għaliex il-kamaleonte nġab hawn Malta fis-seklu dsatax, bejn l-1846 u l-1865,[1] u mhux bħar-rettili l-oħra indiġeni Maltin li kienu jgħammru fuq dawn il-gżejjer minn qabel rifes il-bniedem fuq din l-art.


Ix-xaħmet l-art

Ix-xaħmet l-art

Rettilu ieħor li jinstab fil-gżejjer Maltin huwa x-xaħmet l-art. Fuq dan jgħidu li għandu kimika naturali li tfejjaq. Minħabba f’hekk ix-xaħmet kien jinxtara mill-ispiżjara li kienu jieħdu x-xaħam minnu biex jużawh għall-fejqan tan-nies[3][5].

F’Malta kien maħsub li x-xaħam mehud mix-xaħmet l-art kien tajjeb biex jerġa jtella’ x-xaħar ta’ dawk li jkunu qriegħu[3].


Iż-żrinġ tal-gżejjer Maltin

Saħansitra iż-żrinġ, l-amfibju indiġenu ewlieni tal-gżejjer Maltin, kien ukoll jintuża bħala mediċina tradizzjonali. Soppa magħmula miż-żrinġijiet kienet tingħata lit-tfal morda.[3]

Il-fkieren tal-art

Illum il-ġurnata wieħed ma għadux isib fkieren tal-art indiġeni fil-gżejjer Maltin. Dawk li naraw huma kollha miġjubin minn barra minn Malta.

                                    Fekruna tal-art

Imma fdalijiet tal-qoxra tad-dahar ta’ dawn il-fkieren tal-art instabu ma’ fdalijiet tal-bniedem, kemm f’Għar Dalam, kif ukoll f’għar ieħor f’Għawdex[3].  Dawn il-fdalijiet huma ta’ żmien Neolitiku, żminijiet ta’ madwar 9000 sa 8000 qabel Kristu, meta huwa maħsub li l-bniedem beda jkabbar l-annimali slavaġ miegħu.

Demm frisk minn dawn il-fkieren kien jintuża biex ifejjaq kemm is-suffejra (jaundice) u attakki tal-qamar (epilepsy).

L-irġiel li kienu jsofru minn dan il-mard kienu jgħidulhom biex jieħdu demm frisk minn fekruna tal-art mara u jagħmlu sinjal tas-salib fuq il-ġogi tas-saqajn u tal-idejn. Mill-banda l-oħra, n-nisa kellhom jagħmlu dan bid-demm ta’ fekruna tal-art, imma fekruna raġel.

Ix-xorb tad-demm tal-fekruna tal-art kien ukoll maħsub li jfejjaq l-attakki tal-qamar, l-aktar jekk jinxtorob mill-ewwel wara xi attakk.

Fawna oħra

L-għajdut u t-twemmin fuq il-miġja ta’ San Pawl li jeżistu fil-gżejjer Maltin ħafna drabi ma għandhom xejn x’jaqsmu ma’ San Pawl.  U dawm ma humiex marbuta mal-fawna biss iżda hemm ukoll dawk li huma marbuta mal-flora. U anki dawn nibtu minħabba xebh, u minħabba nuqqas ta’ tagħrif xjentifiku.

Friefet u baħrijiet


Meta konna żgħar, ngħid għalija jien, kienet tkun l-għena tiegħi niġri fil-mergħat mimlijin ġarġir isfar, niġri wara l-friefet, nittanta kull gremxula jew serp li kienu jażżardaw jittawlu minn xi toqba fil-ħajt tas-sejiegħ. U mhux jien biss kelli din id-drawwa.

Niftakar li l-iskola primarja kienu jgħidulna biex meta noħorġu fi tmiem il-ġimgħa ma’ tal-Mużew (u dak iż-żmien min ma kienx imur il-Mużew?) biex magħna nieħdu vażett u nġibu ftit mrieżep, jew żrinġijiet, jew anki xi friefet li konna naqbdu, biex inpoġġuhom fuq il-mejda fir-rokna tal-klassi, li konna nsejħula il-mejda tan-natura.

Għadhom stampati f’moħħi dawk il-friefet b’labra ġo nofs daharhom, imqabbda ma’ xi biċċa sufra, iferfru ġwinhajhom qabel ma jtiru l-aħħar titjira tagħhom lejn il-Ħallieq. U l-istess kienu jagħmlu l-imrieżep ġo vażetti bl-ilma ħadrani, jieħdu ftit arja mill-wiċċ tal-vażett, kif kienu jagħmlu wkoll xi żrinġijiet żgħar. Imma fil-bidu tal-ġimgħa dawk li jkunu ħallewna konna malajr nerġgħu nibdluhom ma’ oħrajn maqbudin ġodda. Dan kien, kif kienu jgħidulna, biex nitgħallem nħobbu  n-natura!

Id-dar mill-banda l-oħra konna nsimgħu qanpiena differenti. Kif nafu l-friefet u l-baħrijiet fuq ġwinjahom għandhom qxur żgħar ħafna, forma ta’ għabra fina, li jtihom dawk l-ilwien kollha. Għalhekk kien ikollna twissijiet biex meta naqbdu l-friefet ma mmissux subgħajna mċappsa b’dik l-għabra fina li l-friefet ikollhom fuq ġwinhajhom, ma xagħarna. U dan għaliex jekk nagħmlu hekk kien jaqgħalna xagħrna!

U xkienu jgħidulna għall-baħrijiet, dawk il-freiefet li jtiru matul il-lejl u li konna narawhom ma’ xi lampa fit-triq, jew li xi waħda minnhom kienet tidhol ġewwa d-dar jekk tara d-dawl ġewwa. Dawn kienu l-ħabbara tal-mewt jew ta’ xi aħbar ħażina.

Ma setgħax jonqos li mit-tagħlim tal-mejda tan-natura fil-klassi, kulhadd kien ikun imħajjar iġemma’ dawk il-ħlejqiet sbieħ u mlewna. U ma setax jonqos li anki jien kont inżomm xi ftit minn dawn id-dar, u saħansitra kont niġbor ix-xgħat tal-friefet u l-baħrijiet.

Niftakar li fil-kamra tas-sodda kien ikolli kaxex tal-kartun taż-żraben b’numru ta’ xgħat ta’ friefet u ta’ baħrijiet, kollha jieklu sakemm jasal iż-żmien tagħhom biex jinbidlu f’fosdqa  u joħorġu bħala farfett jew baħrija, skont l-ispeċi tagħhom.

Darba kelli madwar 30 xgħat tal-baħrija tat-tengħud. Dawn kien ikun fihom madwar 7 ċm tul kull wieħed. Darba ħarbuli mill-kaxxa tal-kartun u kollha bdew telgħin mal-ħitan tal-kamra tas-sodda. U ġieli dawn meta kienu jsiru fosdqa u jinbidlu fil-baħrija magħmula, wara li jinbidlu ġewwa l-fosdqa, kienu jaħarbu u jduru mhux biss mal-kamra tas-sodda imma mad-dar kollha.

Ġieli kelli xi xagħat tal-baħrija ta’ ras il-mewt. Jgħidulha hekk għax fuq daharha għandha ras ta’ mewt kannella safranija fuq dar bellusi kannella fil-blu. Tista’ timmaġina lin-nanti, Alla jtiha l-glorja tal-ġenna, li meta kienet tinduna b’dawn kienet dlonk timla taġen bi ftit weraq taż-żebbuġ imbierek, tqabbdu, u ddur mad-dar tlissen talb biex ibiegħed kull ħażen u kull imrar mid-dar. U waqt li kienet iddur u titlob kienet tpoġġi t-taġen fuq rasna biex ikun aktar effettiv. U din kienet drawwa ta’ dawk tal-età tan-nanna. Kemm kienu juruna mħabba innoċenti li għenitna biex nikbru u nsiru rġiel u nisa tajbin.

Xi kultant nistaqsi lili nnifsi: imma minn fejn kienu jġibhom dawn il-qlajjiet. Li kieku kellhom xi ftit tal-verità kieku jien illum lanqas għandu xagħra waħda, u kieku miet xi tliett darbiet sa issa.

Fossili tal-kelb il-baħar

Fossila ta’ sinna ta’ kelb il-baħar li ta’ spiss wieħed jiltaqa’ magħha fil-blat Malti. Għal uħud din hija magħrufa bħala lsien San Pawl.

Tant kellu sehem qawwi San Pawl fuq dawn l-għajdut u t-twemmin li r-rabta ta’ dawn il-qlajjiet mar-reliġjon għamlithom aktar b’saħħithom. Kien jaħsbu li San Pawl ħalla kopja ta’ lsienu fil-ġebla Maltija. Spiss għadna nisimgħu bis-sejbiet ta’ lsien San Pawl fil-ġebla Maltija. Dawn ma huma xejn ħlief fossili ta’ snien ta’ klieb il-baħar. Kif nafu, il-gżejjer Maltin iffurmaw taħt il-baħar u f’dak iż-żmien ta’ maxdwar 23 sa 5.3 milljun sena ilu fforma s-saff li fih insibu ħafna fdalijiet fosillizzati ta’ speċi ta’ fawna tal-baħar, bħar-rizzi, l-arzell u anki snien tal-klieb il-baħar, fost oħrajn.

Ir-rabta ma’ San Pawl u l-lifgħa, wasslet ukoll għal twemmin, li dawn is-snien tal-klieb il-baħar huma xbiħa ta’ lsien San Pawl, tant li sal-bidu tas-seklu dsatax dawn  kienu għadhom jintużaw kontra xi mard, u ma għandiex xi ngħidu anki kontra gdim velenuż [3].

Ilsien San Pawl jew kif inhu magħruf ukoll bħala “għajn is-serp”, kien jitpoġġa madwar għonq it-tfal biex itellgħu s-snien u kien jitpoġġa b’tali mod li jmiss mal-ġilda. Inkella kien jitpoġġa fl-ilma jgħali  li wara (meta jibred) kien jinxtorob. Ilsien San Pawl mitħun kien ukoll jitpoġġa direttament fuq xi ferita[3].


L-għasafar huma fost il-ħlejjaq li saħħru l-bniedem bil-ħajja, il-kuluri u l-għana tagħhom, minkejja li dan mhux dejjem kien muri b’mod pożittiv u wassal għall-qerda ta’ uħud minnhom.

Twemmin fost dawk li joħorġu għall-kaċċa tal-għasafar huwa dwar il-qaddis patrun tagħhom – San Ubertu. Jingħad li San Ubertu li twieled f’Ardennes, illum il-Belġju, waqt li kien għall-kaċċa ġie wiċċ imb wiċċ ma’ ċerv li kellu salib ileqq f’nofs qrunu. Dan wassal biex San Ubertu biddel ħajtu u daħal fil-Knisja Kattolika fejn wara xi żmien laħaq anki Isqof. Dan it-twemmin insibuh wkoll hawn Malta fejn anki hawn għaqda tal-kaċċaturi li ġġib dan l-isem [6].

Hemm numru ta’ qwiel u superstizzjonijiet fost il-kaccaturi. Fost is-superstitzjonijet hemm dik li jekk xi kaċċatur jispara u joqtol Merill, li llum huwa l-għasfur nazzjonali, dan jistenna xorti ħażina ħafna għal żmien twil. U l-ebda skuża li dan mgħarfux ma tbiddel dan [6].

Il-fenek salvaġġ

Il-fenek salvaġġ ukoll huwa annimal ieħor li jiġi kkaċċjat fil-gżejjer Maltin. U anki fuq dan hemm xi twemmin li ilu għaddej minn fomm għall-fomm sa mis-seklu 15. Jingħad li l-Madonna dehret lill-kaċċatur li daħal jistrieħ f’għar ir-Rabat qrib il-Buskett[6]. Fuq dan l-għar, illum insibu l-Knisja u l-Kunvent ta’ San Duminku fir-Rabat, li nbena fuq l-għar fejn jingħad li dehret il-Madonna.

Il-flora Maltija

Il-gżejjer Maltin huma sinjuri ħafna fil-flora indiġena. Jilħqu madwar elf speċi differenti. U dawn ma setgħux ma kienux ta’ seher għall-bniedem li għex magħhom f’dawn il-gżejjer. Dawn kienu ta’ għajnuna kbira għall-bniedem, kemm biex tawh għata u kenn fuq rasu, teżor ta’ ikel u ta’ ilbies, u anki għenuh biex jikkontrolla l-mard u jtebbeb saħħtu. Fi ftit kliem, il-flora indiġena kienet u għadha ta’ għajnuna ekonomika, ekoloġika u soċjali.

U m’għandiex xi ngħidu dan wassal ukoll għal numru ta’ għajdut, drawwiet u twemmin li ma jispiċċaw qatt. Wieħed mill-aktar twemmin popolari huwa dwar il-pjanta indiġena, li fl-imgħoddi kienet tikber anki Malta imma li llum tinstab tikber biss fuq il-Blata tal-Ġeneral – għerq is-sinjur.

Għalkemm uħud jaħsbu li għerq is-sinjur huwa fungu, dan mhux korrett għaliex din hija pjanta parassita li tgħix fuq l-għeruq ta’ pjanti li ma ddejjaqhom xejn l-imluħa fl-ambjent, bħall-bjanka. Għerq is-sinjur jikber ħafna fuq din il-blata, li hija għolja madwar 60 metru minn wiċċ il-baħar. Il-gran mastri fi żmien l-Ordni, biex iħarsu din lil-pjanti fuq il-Blata tal-Ġeneral, kienu mhux biss illixxaw kemm setgħu il-ġnub biex ħadd ma jkun jista’ jitla fuqha mill-baħar, imma kienu ukoll ħallew għassa madwarha.

Il-magħseb ta’ din il-pjanta huwa aħmar u fuqu jkollu fjuri żgħar ta’ lewn aħmar dagħmi. Minħabba dan il-kulur ta’ għerq is-sinjur, dan kien jintuża fil-mediċina tradizzjonali – tant li fis-seklu sittax fl-Ewropa kien magħruf bħala l-fungu ta’ Malta. Tant kellhom stima lejn din il-pjanta l-Kavallieri ta’ Malta li ta’ spiss kienu jibagħtu ftit minnha bħala rigal lill-mexxejja fl-Ewropa.

Kien maħsub li minħabba li l-pjanta hija ta’ kulur kannella ħamrani, u dan il-kulur kien jiskura meta din tinxef, li din kienet tajba biex tfejjaq problemi tad-demm. Barra minn hekk, minħabba l-forma fallika tagħha, kien ukoll maħsub li din setgħet tgħin ukoll fi problemi sesswali, tant li l-Kavallieri kienu ukoll jużaw il-mgħaseb niexfa biex jerġgħu jġibu lura s-saħħa wara xi battalja.

Kif għadna hemm numru minn dawn l-għajdut, qlajjiet u twemmin, l-aktar l-użu tal-pjanti indiġeni Maltin fil-mediċina tradizzjonali. Wieħed jista’ jaqra fuq uħud minn dawn fil-ktieb Siġar Maltin – tagħrif, tnissil, ħarsien, għidut li bħalissa qiegħed għand l-istampatur [7].





Planting on illegal deposits

January 26, 2018

Friday 26th January 2018

Planting on illegal deposits

 Alfred E. Baldacchino

The published regulations on the illegal deposit of material on land and illegal reclamation of land, being proposed by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, can be a very good exercise contributing to the conservation of biodiversity. Yes they can. But will they?

A closer look at the English and Maltese versions, reveals the need of dotting a number of i’s and crossing a number of t’s.

The definition of ‘alien’ and ‘invasive alien species’, is conspicuous by its absence. Such definitions are neither found in the local empowering Acts referred to in the regulations. These are defined in the latest EU Regulation 1143 of 2014 on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species. Notwithstanding that the Minister for the Environment has not yet published (despite promising) these regulations as part of local legislation, EU regulations are enforceable in toto from date of publication by the EU, November 4, 2014.

Article 8 (ii) of the proposed regulations deals with the expropriation of land. If the owner does not comply with the provisions, his land can be expropriated “to protect the land from further illegal deposit of material”. So far so good, but if the land is expropriated it should be clear that it would be afforested according to these regulations, something which is not expressed.

Schedule 1 outlines requirements and terms of references for the method statement for afforestation. Schedule 1 presumably has been drafted by the Ministry for the Environment, with the input from the Environment and Resource Authority, unless this is negated.

Article 1.1 (a) of the schedule explains that “the trees and shrubs used for the rehabilitation shall be indigenous species which are native to the area/site concerned and compatible and appropriate to the adjacent habitats”. But there is no indication from where the trees are to be obtained. Why?

The Convention of Biological Diversity (article 8) also adopted by an EU Decision, states that “members states to this Convention (Malta is a Member State) should… prevent the introduction, control and eliminate, those alien species which are a threat to biodiversity”.

The Convention for the Conservation of Wildlife and its Natural Habitat, the Bern Convention (Malta is a Member State) in one of its recommendations (14/1984) urges its Members States to take the necessary steps to control the introduction of alien species because of their negative social, ecological and economic impacts, something which cannot be easily known before it is too late.

Furthermore the Bern Convention resolution (57/1997) urges Members States not to let the intentional introduction of alien invasive species in their country. It emphasises that if indigenous species are imported, these specimens are regarded as invasive alien species.

Another Bern Convention Resolution (58/1997), regards the indigenous extinct, rare or indigenous species whose numbers needs to be strengthened. This resolution urges members states to regulate these activates even where the planting of trees is involved. It urges member states to draft regulations to control introduced species which are indigenous to the country, intended to be used for such aims. What a better place to include such obligation than in these regulations.

All these obligations are completely missing from the proposed regulations. Article 1.1 (a) in the Schedule should oblige that “All the trees and shrubs used for afforestation should be propagated from local stock so as not to pollute the gene pool of local species.”

The lack of understanding of scientific and technical terms in the Maltese version does not do any honour to the drafter.

Schedule article 1.1 (b) obliges that the choice of species are to be guided by policy documents and guidelines re non-native plants invaders, “together with the list laid down in the appendix to this schedule.” The documents which were published for public consultation do not have such an Appendix attached. Whether this is a lapsus or not, it cannot be negated that the public couldn’t comment on it.

Was it a lapsus to omit the definition of “alien invasive species” or was it a measure of convenience? Landscapers would not like it for sure!

The above-mentioned article obliges that: “If any alien invasive species are already growing on site, these must be uprooted and destroyed as part of the rehabilitation procedures.” This is a good measure, but the destruction of such alien invasive species should be destroyed according to and under the supervisor of ERA, so that these would not be dumped somewhere helping in the further dispersal of the invasive species itself.

Therefore a sub-article to this article 1.1 (b) is to be inserted accordingly: “The method of destruction of invasive alien species should be approved by ERA so that these are destroyed in a safe way and do not contribute in any way to help the dispersal of the invasive species.” That is, if it is desired to control invasive species as nationally and internationally obliged.

The lack of understanding of scientific and technical terms in the Maltese version does not do any honour to the drafter. These are mostly in the Schedule 1 drafted by the Ministry for the Environment and ERA, unless it was some ‘landscaper’! It is indeed unbelievable that the drafter does not make any difference between indigenous and endemic. It also hurts to see that the national biodiversity protectors refer to “weeds” as “ħaxix ħazin”. Weeds are part of biodiversity, forming part of an ecological habitat, which the government has to take in consideration in national obligations regarding biodiversity loss by 2020.

It is such a howler that makes me very sceptic about these regulations with regards to the implementation, enforcement and biodiversity conservation. Furthermore these badly need Maltese proof reading by a qualified person, not only to correct orthographic and grammatical mistakes, but also to correct the translation of technical words.

Can one perhaps regard all these as lapsus by the drafters? ERA should know better, I believe. Yes these regulations can be beneficial, only if ERA professionally intervenes. But will they?

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