Protecting Gozo’s Heritage – High on MEPA’s agenda
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The protection of Gozo’s natural beauty and rich heritage has been, of late, high on MEPA’s agenda. Over the past few weeks the Authority, upon the recommendation of the Heritage Planning Unit, has protected through the mechanism of scheduling, a substantial number of cultural, archaeological and natural sites.
Traditional Stone Balconies
Although the traditional stone balconies in Victoria, already had been afforded statutory group protection under the Antiquities List in 1932, the generic nature of some of these entries created deficiencies with the growing risk that these architecture will depreciate and get lost under development pressure.
MEPA decided to carry out in-depth studies before scheduled the 51 traditional stone balconies within the "Manderaggio" area. The stone balconies which are found within 42 properties have been scheduled for their historical significance through their strong association with a specific period in Malta’s history and with a specific craft and activity. These balconies carry distinct aesthetic significance since they illustrate a certain degree of creative, technical and technological achievement while they have a strong social meaning and an important element that represents a community’s sense of place.
MEPA created three categorises for these balconies; Type A for balconies having a significantly elaborate corbels, parapet and plan; Type B for those having a mix of both simple and elaborate characteristics; and Type C for those having relatively simple corbels and parapet, have a rectangular shape and usually have pillars in their corners.
Archaeological features in Dwejra
In Gozo, the Authority also scheduled a number of archaeological features in the Dwejra Area that include amongst a number of other features the cart-ruts. These are located on the cliff which separates the inland sea from the open sea. The cart-ruts are in a varying state of preservation, highly distinguishable in certain areas whilst hardly discernable in other areas. At a point where the cart-ruts make a sharp 90 degree turn, in the area at Fuq it-Tieqa, the Authority scheduled the remains of an ancient circular structure. The structure is built of large irregular stones, part of which are scattered within its immediate surroundings.
Another two features which has been given protection are a rock-cut path and rock cut basin which are also located on the cliff edge overlooking the inland sea and in an area known as Tal-Ibrag, to the southeast of the Dwejra Tower respectively.
Another archaeological feature which Mepa is protecting a rock cut feature on the promontory immediately opposite il-Gebla tal-General relating to the 18thcentury funicular which provided access to the rock. During the Knight’s period a red flowering plant growing on the Gebla tal-General was thought to be a fungus having medicinal properties curing a variety of ailments involving blood disorders.
Mepa also scheduled the Il-Qattara Freshwater Pool which is located in a much larger solution subsidence structure (doline) known as Il-Qawra within Dwejra. It is fed by a perennial source of freshwater providing a very rare and important habitat for species that require water throughout the whole year.
Within this area, the Authority also protected the area at Tal-Port which sustains a transient freshwater habitat at the interface between the coastal cliffs and the valley system, and is entirely dependent on the latter. Apart from Wied tal-Port this includes tributaries such as Wied ta’ Labbatija, Wied ta’ Kerrex and Wied ta’ Birrix which feed rainwater from the upper to the lower reaches into the transient habitat.
Apart from its renowned coastal scenery, the natural heritage at Dwejra extends further inland incorporating an intricate network of valleys. The most spectacular in terms of geomorphology is Wied il-Kbir owing to its deeply incised formation. It contrasts with one of its flatter tributaries known as Wied Lima along its mid-section and Wied il-Mans along the upper reaches, adding exceptional rural character to this area.
Mepa also protected the natural heritage of the shingle beach at Il-Qawra which is considered to be the best example of this type of beach in the Maltese Islands. Although the beach does not support any vegetation it is backed by a fairly rich community of halophytes (salt-loving plants), namely Golden Samphires, Sea Samphires and Chaste Trees.
For more information log onto www.mepa.org.mt/heritage
MEPA Environment &Planning Authority