It is noted with great satisfaction by the Energy and Water Agency, responsible for the execution of the rehabilitation works at Wied il-Qlejgħa, commonly referred to as Chadwick Lakes, and by Nature Trust Malta-FEE, which has been with the management of the site by the Environment and Resources Authority in terms of the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulation (S.L. 549.44), that the ongoing restoration efforts are bearing fruit, and that numbers of visitors to the site have been increasing significantly on an ongoing basis. This project is being part-financed by the European Union under the European Regional Development Fund ERDF.05.027. Invest in Chadwick Lakes for Tourism Purposes.
The Agency has endeavored to ensure a sensitive and appropriate rehabilitation of the site. In recognition of the ecological and scientific importance of the valley system, the site was declared as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) of National Importance, which was made subject to a Protection Notice by means of Government Notice 34 of 2021. The attention of the general public is drawn specifically to Section D of said notice, which outlines activities that are prohibited in the valley.
In addition to the protection of local species, the rehabilitation of the valley system and the works carried out on the valley bed itself serve to reinstate that portion of Malta’s rain harvesting, which due to settled debris and lack of maintenance had resulted in the valley system failing to operate at its full potential. In the wake of reduced rainfall, this is a crucial aspect to be safeguarded and a catchment capacity of 35 million litres has been restored through the ongoing works.
The release of any non-indigenous species into the valley system is strictly prohibited. Releases into the valley have included freshwater fish and ducks, which cause significant harm to the ecological balance within the valley. The ecological impact is further compounded when non-indigenous species released are also invasive, making their eradication logistically and financially challenging. Multiple releases have led to the establishment of crayfish populations, resulting in pressures on native frog populations. It has furthermore been observed that the strain on the existing frog populations is being exacerbated by the capture of tadpoles and their removal from the valley.
The general public is hereby reminded of the protected status of the valley’s flora and fauna, and that the picking and uprooting of native flora and fauna found therein constitutes a criminal offence.
Following the interventions to remove alien species, the indigenous species populating the valley bed are once more beginning to thrive. However, this rehabilitation process is severely impacted by human activity upon the valley bed, irrespective of whether such activity involves foot or vehicular traffic. Whilst the impact of foot traffic might not appear to be as extensive to the naked eye as vehicle tracks, significant impact nevertheless results, both with respect to living organisms as well as to the valley’s function in contributing to groundwater recharge.
The Protection Notice prohibits off-roading, including off-roading by motorcycles, and limits access by vehicles and bicycles to existing hard surfaces. For visitors enjoying the site on foot, a clearly marked walking trail is being established for the benefit and safety of the general public. Access to the valley should thus be improved for the purposes of public enjoyment and in order to foster and facilitate a much needed connection to nature whilst also safeguarding the cropland within the valley. Keeping to the clearly marked pathway and refraining from straying onto agricultural land or into the valley bed itself allows visitors to interact with the valley in a way which is respectful of its ecological importance and of the agricultural activity therein.
Visitors to the valley are additionally kindly requested to not discard litter along the footpath but to use the bins that are being provided at each end of the walk. The general public is thus urged to play its part in protecting this natural area intended for the enjoyment of all. Further information about the project may be obtained from the Energy and Water Agency or from Nature Trust Malta, or by visiting the dedicated website at www.chadwicklakes.mt