Restoration of the retaining wall and arched buttresses along the Buskett watercourse
Families and individuals visiting Buskett may have noticed the ongoing works on the watercourse traversing the Buskett area. Nearing completion, the restoration of the engineered water course is intended as a soil stabilisation measure to conserve the protected riparian woodland formed by mature White poplar (Populus alba, Maltese: Luq) trees, which give the name to the watercourse itself Wied il-Luq. The woodland habitat composed of Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis, Maltese: Rand) trees located downstream will also benefit from these interventions.
Life Saving Buskett is a project part-financed by the European Union Life+ programme being implemented by the PARKS Directorate within the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change. It was launched in August 2014 and will run until May 2018.
This water culvert is of historic importance. It was constructed during the Knights of St John period in Malta, and served as a means of water passage, hence as a surface water runoff, directing water towards Wied il-Luq.
Under current circumstances, the precise dating of the construction of this culvert based solely on stylistic grounds would be very difficult to establish. It is, however, noteworthy that Grand Master Lascaris (1636-57) may have commissioned the building of this engineered watercourse in addition to a number of fountains, water pools, and various structures, including four farmhouses.
An arched gateway leading to a nearby farmhouse near this culvert, ir-Razzett Tal-Bagħal, is also adorned with a coat-of-arms of Grand Master Lascaris on the exterior. Therefore, the arched buttressed culvert could probably date from the same period as can be inferred from old plans depicting various structures built in Buskett.
The LIFE Saving Buskett project seeks to repair and restore the damaged retaining walls and associated arched buttresses along the water course. This includes a total of 49 arched buttresses; 24 of which will be restored and 25 reconstructed in their entirety. This measure aims to consolidate the definition of the watercourse and reduce the deposition and sedimentation of soil and debris coming down from the valley sides.
These measures are crucial to prevent the collapse of the retaining walls which would occlude and/or alter the flow of the watercourse thus affecting negatively the priority habitat Arborescent matorral with Laurus nobilis just a few metres downstream. It would similarly affect the Populus alba galleries that stand along this stretch of the watercourse and further downstream. The mentioned habitats would also be directly damaged by the sudden flow of soil and debris that such collapse would cause since such flow would result in the choking of mature trees as well as burying saplings thus affecting negatively the regeneration of the habitats.
Apart from these habitats, other trees characteristic of riparian woodland, such as the Narrow-leaved Ash (Fraxinus angustifolia, Maltese: Fraxxnu) and Elm (Ulmus sp., Maltese: Ulmu/Nemmiesa) that stand further downstream would also be negatively affected by such collapse.
The importance of restoring the site is, however, not only limited to environmental purposes. The site holds a social, cultural and recreational function within the Maltese community and its significance within the Maltese mainland is amplified when considering the increased urbanization as well as the lack of green spaces of similar size to Buskett elsewhere in the Maltese Islands.
Malta is considered one of the most densely populated countries with limited space available for recreational purposes and therefore locations for outdoor activities and relaxation amongst nature are highly limited. According to the European Commission (2014), only 0.7% of land cover in Malta consists of a forest area, of which Buskett covers 47 hectares equivalent to 30% of the total forest area in Malta. To this end Buskett provides a unique recreational and aesthetic experience.
For further information kindly visit the website www.lifesavingbuskett.org.mt.