Posted February 25, 2019
Works to improve water circulation at threatened reserve
Long-awaited works at the Il-Maghluq marshland in Marsascala are likely to go ahead after the Planning Authority indicated its approval of dredging plans filed by the government’s environment agency.
Ambjent Malta has applied to dredge silt and sand that is currently blocking water circulation at the Natura 2000 site, one of only two saline marshlands in the south of the island and an important habitat for the endangered Maltese killifish (buzaqq).
The works are intended to address the poor water quality at the reserve, a longstanding cause of frustration for the Marsascala local council.
The plans had been recommended for refusal on procedural grounds as they lacked final endorsement from environmental and cultural heritage authorities.
However, at a hearing on Thursday, the PA board unanimously indicated its intention to approve the works, with Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) chairman Victor Axiak urging members not to shoot down the “crucial” project. A final vote will be taken at a future hearing.
Il-Maghluq consists of the salt marsh proper and an elongated lagoon, both of which are ecologically important.
This area once consisted of two interconnected fish ponds, but the direct link between them was cut off when the current road was built. Pipes placed to allow water circulation between the bay and the ponds have become partially blocked by silt, debris and other accumulated material.
Concerns were raised during the PA hearing about the impact of works on the protected killifish. The species, the only local fish that lives in brackish water, has been declining in numbers at Il-Maghluq due to litter, predators and poor water circulation at the habitat.
Ray Caruana, coordinator of the national killifish conservation project, proposed that work take dredging works should not be carried out in winter, since the killifish generally kept to the muddy substrate or shelter in the submerged algae during the cold months.
He said that works were best becarried out between July and October, after the peak breeding activity was over.