Malta Diary Open spaces shrinking but thankfully some remain
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Open space in Malta is as valuable as gold is on the financial market or as was olive oil 2,000 years ago. Already vastly over-populated – probably the most per square metre throughout Europe – Malta’s population has swollen with an estimated increase of 40,000 people who have come to reside and work in Malta over the last four years as a result of its booming economy and today stands at 410,000+ … not to mention an annual tourist arrival figure that has boomed to over two million spread throughout the year.
Urban development has been alarmingly spreading over the years, eating more and more into open country as what were previously small villages have now virtually expanded to become towns. In retrospect, this development should have been vertical rather than horizontal with hi-rise buildings. This is now being advocated belatedly but is meeting communal protest of “disfigurement” of the current environment.
With an eye to turning over a quick buck, developers are proposing more and more urban development and there is now an almighty tussle between these and an ever-growing lobby of environmental protestors determined to preserve what little open space has remained.
People in my age group (70+) lament that Malta ‘ain’t not what it used to be’ and rue the days of our boyhood and youth of serene walks in the countryside and beautiful views to admire. Then again, much the same may be said all over the world because certainly, time and tide wait for no man.
However, thankfully, some wonderful open areas have remained, with many determined to ensure they will remain.
One of these is Wied Babu in Zurrieq (wied means valley from the Arabic wadi), a beautiful valley that leads from what used to be the village of Zurrieq (now also a town) in the south of Malta and wends its way to the open Mediterranean Sea with the small cluster of buildings at the mouth known as Wied iz-Zurrieq, mainly small huts owned by fishermen but today surrounded by a conglomeration of restaurants and an ever-popular tourist area for a number of reasons.
One of these is the famed Blue Grotto, a wondrous rock arch set in crystal clear blue sea and a rainbow-hued sand sea bottom, as well as the little offshore island of Filfla.
The valley itself is a mixture of weird-shaped limestone rocks and cliffs clothed in green ethnic fauna and a general aura of serenity that temporarily removes one from the modern world of laptops and mobiles and takes one back to a time before the arrival of human beings polluted everything they could lay their hands on. In other words, nature as nature intended to be.
Not far from Zurrieq is the village of Qrendi with its famed
‘Il-Maqluba’, a quite considerably-sized sink hole that collapsed in a circular hole as a result of under-terrain rock water flooding that gradually eroded the limestone rocks and caused the collapse back in the annals of time.
Naturally, at the time, this became the subject of great superstition and attributed to be a result of Divine Intervention. The fable is that in the area humanity had developed a veritable Sodom and Gomorrah of carnal sin and excess and in his wrath, God inverted the same sinful village in the area and turned it upside down.
Farmers used to say that on nights of stormy winds and rains, shrieks and screams of anguish were audible in the area, no doubt the sound of ferocious wind around window casements and door portals.
The whole area because of its water retention capacity, is extremely fertile and a teeming agricultural area.
It would be tragic to imagine that such gems should ever be polluted by urban development which would not only be tragic but a travesty of natural heritage.
“The smaller fish has never eaten the larger fish”
Showing the impotence of the so called ‘man-in-the-street’ against authority and bureaucracy, or against a powerful individual.