Malta’s Valleys are a unique habitat hosting a variety of species which fully exploit the topography and characteristics found in such places, making them one the richest habitats one the Islands (Schembri 1994). Unfortunately many of these Widien, are under threat from various anthropogenic sources, including quarrying and landscape alterations.
One particular valley, Wied Inċita (Attard) is under significant threat from several disturbances. The most notable of these is the ongoing quarrying of limestone and dumping of construction waste. Situated behind Mount Carmel and the ELC headquarters, Wied Inċita is a magical place for nature lovers, however it is undermined by earthmoving machines and use as a landfill. Quarrying has eaten away massive areas of Garigue Habitat on the top part of the valley, whilst the Maquis which forms at the base is also under threat. Quarrying releases large amounts of dust, while generating noise and vibrations which are a nuisance to nearby residents. People from Naxxar, Siggeiwi, Qrendi and other quarry encircled towns can easily relate to this.
Illegal quarrying operations have not gone unnoticed and the Attard Local Council has filed a judicial protest and court case against the owner of the dumping site and concrete factory, which are both operating illegally. Several law infringements have been pointed out including the construction of illegal buildings; quarrying outside of the allowed range and dumping of waste beyond the height limits stipulated by Maltese Law.
The valley is also a popular fly tipping site, with construction waste being dumped at one’s convenience from the road onto the sides of the valley. Litter is ubiquitous and varies from asbestos sheets to shotgun cartridges to plastic bottles. Concrete and rubble have also been dumped directly onto the valley side.
What is clear however is that this area has significance with locals. People who visit Wied Inċita, to appreciate what’s left of the natural valley, and enjoy the relative peace or to walk their dog, go there for a reason. The site which is easily accessible by most modes of transport, is relatively cut off from the hustle and bustle of city-life, offering refuge for humans and animals alike. Apart from being a site of ecological importance; the place also has cultural significance, and the degradation of Wied Inċita may result in the loss of ecosystem services such as that of recreation.
Unfortunately whilst this may seem like an impossible issue to solve alone, when taking other environmental crimes into consideration around the island (including the numerous similar cases which threaten the Maltese Widien and other sensitive habitats), little has been done to remediate the damage caused. Such places are gradually being degraded, sometimes beyond repair. Habitat degradation favours the establishment of invasive plant species, which in turn contribute to the loss of biodiversity. This is a viscous cycle, which can only be broken through good environmental management. This however does not come without a cost, which is why if found guilty, the destroyers of Wied Inċita Valley should be made liable to cover costs for the restoration of this habitat. There is a glimpse of hope being offered by the Attard Local Council, but court proceedings in Malta unfortunately do too little, too late. We as citizens however, can take action by voicing our concerns, and bringing such cases into light to the relevant authorities.
Schembri, P.J., 1994. Malta’s natural heritage. , pp.1–18.