Water is a crucial resource on any small island. This fact is even more true within the context of multiple-stakeholders and its sustainable management.
Dr Eman Calleja, an educator and environmental specialist since the early 1990s is well versed in this delicate balancing act, as he was involved in a number of projects around Malta and Gozo, as an environmental consultant. At Chadwick Lakes, the water-way that travels from Dingli down to Mosta, with the iconic Mdina bastions in the background, Calleja has lead the conservation efforts with the Energy and Water agency, to ensure the generation of natural habitats and sustainability of this important resource.
“It is always a delicate balance between economic, social and environmental gains” Eman explains.
Named after the British engineer who designed them in the late 19th Century, Chadwick Lakes are situated in Wied il-Qlejgha, and consist of a series of dams which pour into each other, forming a number of water basins along the way.
The hypnotising views and sounds of these small waterfalls make the place a very popular spot with locals and tourists alike, especially during the colder months. “That’s why sometimes we refer to it as the Winter’s Blue Lagoon” Eman says jokingly, comparing it to the popular summer hotspot in Comino.
“This comes with its own challenges” he warns. “While we are immensely happy to welcome visitors who come to spend their Sunday afternoons strolling by the waterway, we are aware of any damage that may be done to this natural site” Eman says.
“In fact we created a passageway to guide visitors, in order to make sure that they do not venture into the more sensitive areas of the valley and avoid damage. We are happy to note that the vast majority of our guests are extremely mindful of this, and also collaborate with us… but unfortunately it’s the one-in-ten that perhaps ruin the whole experience for the rest.”
The Chadwick Lakes Regeneration project, which is currently ongoing, is being led by the Energy and Water Agency and is being co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund with a co-financing rate of 80%, with the other 20% invested through national funds. The total amount invested, will be that of approximately €5 million, covering necessary studies, restoration works and educational initiatives as part of the valley’s comprehensive regeneration
Explaining what the extensive Chadwick Lakes project consisted of, Eman notes how the basins behind the dams had become silted over (53,000 cubic meters)and needed to be cleaned. “This meant that a lot more water is now being collected in these dams, providing more of this crucial resource to be used by the farmers along the stream. We also restored several of the historical dams and in strategic places we created a number of depressions and islands in the stream which are conducive for the creation of natural habitats for water-way insects and other wildlife.”
“We also removed invasive species such as reeds which have the tendency to hog similar areas for resources not allowing anything else a fighting chance to survive” Eman explains.
Asked how important it is to take care of such places, Eman is clear in his reply. These places are quite unique and given the population density, the strain on these places is greatly compounded when compared to similar places in other countries.
“That is why we need to maintain a vigilant eye, and a constant active effort to keep these places at their optimal natural state, in a way that they function within their environmental context, they provide water sustainably to their surrounding agricultural operators, and be a wonderful attraction to all who visit! It’s not an easy balance to strike, but we do our best to succeed” Eman concludes.