Monday, October 11, 2010
Whenever I am in Gozo I go to this little known part of the island which is one of the most beautiful and definitely the most spectacular place in the Maltese archipelago.
I was not the only one there. Three men in their late seventies, were sitting on a rock taking in the view. They said that they go there every Sunday after hearing mass at the Sannat Parish Church.
They knew that they were lucky to live near such a beautiful place and that they were lucky that it was still in its pristine state.
They recalled that in the late eighties there were plans to build a mega tourist complex complete with two hotels, golf course and helicopter pad and that it was thanks to public pressure that the place was saved.
The campaign to save Ta’ Ċenċ was carried out by a small number of environmental organisations that got together to stop the project at a time when there were still no official structures to evaluate such projects, and Environment Impact Assessments were still unheard of. Reports were drawn up which showed the importance of the area for the biodiversity of the Maltese islands.
The cliffs and plateau provide habitat for a large variety of plants and animals including the Cory’s shearwater (ċiefa), and Malta’s national bird the blue rock thrush (merill) both of which breed in crevices in the vertical cliff faces.
The peregrine falcon (bies), which was immortalised in the film The Maltese Falcon, used to breed on the cliffs. The vast garigue provides an important habitat for birds, insects and flowering plants, especially orchids. During my visit on Sunday, I saw more butterflies at Ta’ Ċenċ than I had seen in Malta during the past few months.
When the campaign to save Ta’ Ċenċ started, few people knew that this place existed and even fewer had been there. Even now, twenty years later, few people go there. The cliff face and parts of the plateau are protected legally but more needs to be done to ensure that future generations can enjoy the whole of Ta’ Ċenċ with all its plants and animals.
The whole plateau and the surrounding areas including valleys and agricultural land need to be given added protection a move which would fit perfectly with the concept of Gozo as an eco island.