Restora­tion of the re­tain­ing wall and arched but­tresses along the Bus­kett wa­ter­course

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

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.

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