Ambjent Malta and Heritage Malta have been collaborating closely to ensure the protection and upkeep of an olive grove with significant importance in Bidnija, with trees as old as 1,800 years.
This was announced by Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning Aaron Farrugia and Minister for National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government José Herrera during the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two entities.
The Conservation Plan outlined in this MOU includes the details of the measures that are undertaken by both Ambjent Malta and Heritage Malta.
Minister Aaron Farrugia explained that these measures include the pruning of trees by qualified gardeners within the afforestation section of Ambjent Malta, given that these trees are protected through the provisions of the Trees and Woodlands Protection Regulations (2011). An ERA permit would be required for such pruning to take place.
Another important measure is the testing for the Xyella fastidiosa, a disease which is a major threat to olive trees. This disease is not as of yet present in Malta and all olive trees in this grove have tested negative, however, thousands of olive trees in southern Italy have been affected by this emerging disease.
Additional measures include the genetic testing and polyphenol content in collaboration with University of Malta, propagation of ‘Bidni’ olives and planting, installation of CCTV surveillance cameras, fire prevention measures, and the restoration of rubble walls.
“The implementation of these measures stands as testament to government’s commitment towards the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem services for future generations”, said Minister Farrugia.
Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government José Herrera expressed his satisfaction at the signing of this agreement. He stated that this is a clear example of how different entities can share their resources and collaborate for the protection of our tangible heritage.
The area where the grove is located is also of archaeological importance given the remains of a rustic villa from the Roman period where oil used to be worked. In fact, earlier this year another agreement was signed, between Heritage Malta, the University of Malta and the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage, in order for the three entities to work together for the conservation of the cultural heritage of this site.
Further to the protection of this area emanating from the Trees and Woodlands Protection Regulations (2011) and the additional protection that the site receives from it being a scheduled Tree Protection Area, Area of Ecological Importance and Site of Scientific Importance, this MOU provides additional measures to strengthen and safeguard the protection and conservation of these trees.