Measuring just 27 kilometres across, Malta is more likely comparable to a small city. With its economy going from strength to strength since the late eighties, bringing about significant growth in the population, the country had to develop quite a chunk of its countryside to welcome its young families, something which has undoubtedly left a mark on the island’s environment and skyline.
This has brought about a discussion on the importance of Malta’s unbuilt environment, and natural heritage, which are gaining a renewed value, especially with the establishment of a new organisation specifically tasked with their protection.
“We are responsible for the upkeep of a large number of natural zones in Malta, with a view to guarantee their sustainability and existence for future generations” says Adrian Attard, Director General at Parks Malta.
“The zones we manage in fact can be broadly split into three categories. First, we have our Natural Parks such as the Park tal-Majistral in Mellieħa and Park ta’ Nwadar in Żonqor, Marsascala with the respective Management Boards. These are often large expanses of land which are in the most natural state. Here we make sure that they stay this way and often manage stakeholders and visitors to make sure that no damage is done to these areas” Adrian explains.
“Secondly we have a number of family parks which vary in size and scope. Top of the list here would be the Family Park in Marsascala and the Ta’ Qali Park, with the latter being renovated through a national project, while the former is constantly being maintained and further recreational opportunities will be developed to have further diverse facilities for all to enjoy. These parks are frequently visited by families as they offer diverse ambience in a safe environment.”
“We are also responsible for a number of valley-ways which outline several of Malta’s towns and villages” he says.
“Each of these environments requires specific approaches, by specialised personnel who design and implement interventions on a daily basis” Adrian points out.
“Very soon we will be taking over the management and running of two-family parks, the one in Bengħajsa, Birżebbuġa which is being regenerated, and another in Cottonera which will include a sports track and facilities. These two spaces will require different expertise which we are more than happy to offer” Adrian notes.
In the case of valley-ways, “Sadly a lot of our time is still dedicated to cleaning and the upkeep of these precious water-ways which otherwise would give way to serious flooding problems. We also make sure to restore several rubble walls which are crucial to prevent soil-erosion and the loss of numerous natural habitats. Here we also clean these spaces from invasive and alien species which often choke up the resources for Malta’s indigenous wildlife” Parks Malta together with other entities, is involved in the LIFE Integrate Project. This eight-year project (2018-2025), with a budget of €17 Million, is led by the Energy and Water Agency and co-financed under the EU Life Programme, aims to support and optimize the implementation of the Energy and Water Directive. The project isis supporting the implementation of Malta’s 2nd River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) and the achievement of the environmental objectives of the Water Framework Directive, whilst also leading to the formulation of the 3rd RBMP .
Parks Malta is also responsible for extensive work to maintain natural water basins in the countryside which are used by farmers to collect water for their crops. A related project that Parks Malta has embarked on is the Rain Wiin project, which consists of various interventions from field studies of several dams and reservoirs to actual intervention on restoration of both Wied il- Ghasel and Wied Santa Katerina which are interconnected valleys with the objective to increase water harvesting by 45,000m3. This is being co-financed through the EU Cohesion Funds.
“These basins are central to the life-cycle of the country’s food-chain. In fact, we are currently looking into the possibility of expanding our efforts in this field, through funding assistance from a number of sources after a study have been completed on these basins.” Adrian confirmed.
Asked about the public’s response to their efforts, Adrian is more than pleased. “We receive very encouraging feedback from the public who is increasingly becoming aware of the need to protect our unbuilt environment. This is reflected in our awareness and cleaning campaign events which are always a great success” Adrian concludes.