EcoGozo - Sustainability in Action
June 1, 2017
By Joseph Cutajar
Overlooking Gozo: the Island of the Three Hills
IMAGE: William Attard McCarthy
The ecoGozo Regional Development Directorate was established by the Ministry for Gozo in 2009 as the local sustainable development strategy for the island of Gozo. The ecoGozo concept has developed into a set of tangible actions spanned around the pillars of sustainable development – economy, environment, society and culture and identity.
EcoGozo’s Mission Statement sets out the aims and objectives behind this initiative, namely:
“To be the benchmark example of local government achieving an increasingly sustainable society through committed grassroots involvement by the Gozitan community. Our goal is to protect the Gozitan lifestyle, its environment, resources, culture and identity and to ensure that all these play a significant part in presenting a warm and vibrant community that attracts more visitors and investors to the island.”
In line with these goals, ecoGozo has been collaborating with other directorates within the Ministry and many other stakeholders, to spearhead major environmental projects and initiatives in water conservation, renewable energy, biodiversity and agriculture. The following are just a few of the projects undertaken as part of the ecoGozo initiative.
Alter Aqua – A non-conventional Water Resources Programme
Alter Aqua was a water stewardship programme funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation and the Ministry for Gozo and operated within Gozo during 2011-2014. Alter Aqua’s main activities included the installation of four innovative rainwater harvesting systems (500,000-litres capacity) in four primary schools and the reinstatement of five existing rainwater harvesting systems (1.26 million litres capacity) in three primary schools and the Gozo Experimental Farm. Alter Aqua included an educational programme, led by Nature Trust Malta and included workshops and the development of educational material in English and Maltese. These activities were targeted at students, teachers and technicians.
Solar panels at the Ministry for Gozo
Photovoltaic systems in Gozo
The Ministry for Gozo has been actively engaged in increasing the use of renewable energy in government buildings and social housing. The 92.32-kWp currently commissioned at the Ministry for Gozo (see picture) was- installed in three phases – in 2006 (10-kWp), in 2011(40.32-kWp) and in 2012 (42-kwP) and generates around 60% of the Ministry’s energy requirements.
In addition, the ERDF project Renewable Energy Facilities in Public Buildings in Gozo oversaw the installation of around 1,500 photovoltaic panels – for a total generating capacity of 401-kWp – on the rooftops of eight of Gozo’s public buildings. Finally 230 photovoltaic panels were installed and commissioned on the rooftops of all fifteen apartment blocks at Ta’ Cawla Housing Estate. These panels are expected to cover the energy needs of around 28 Gozitan households.
Overlooking Mgarr Harbour
Public Gardens and the Gozo Biodiversity Explorer
The historic Villa Rundle Gardens hosts a large variety of local and foreign trees and shrubs. The site was enhanced and beatified between 2009 and 2012 to provide recreational facilities and an open space for families. The gardens are frequently used to host educational and social events in Gozo and act as one of the hubs of cultural activities in central Victoria.
An initiative – called the Gozo Biodiversity Explorer – was launched in 2015 to create a botanical database on all trees and shrubs in public gardens in Gozo. General information on the different species at Villa Rundle Gardens and Three Hills Gardens in Marsalforn were displayed publically on text-engraved acrylic plaques attached on selected trees. The greater vision of this initiative is to cover all public gardens in Gozo and to establish an online database hosted on the ecoGozo website.
Restoration of Gozo’s Valley Systems
Gozo’s hill-and-valley landscape is one of its more prominent and important natural features. The valley systems of Gozo host a wide variety of flora and fauna, and certain valleys, such as Wied il-Lunzjata, have unique habitats and micro-ecosystems. These systems act as important watercourses and retain large amounts of rainwater that can be used in agriculture. Over time, the valley systems can become full of silt and debris, which can have adverse impacts on the surrounding area, including flooding and reduced rainwater storage capabilities.
Over the years, the Ministry for Gozo has aggressively addressed this issue in attempt to restore Gozo’s valley systems to its normal functionality and to facilitate a safe and productive environment for local farmers. To date, the Ministry for Gozo has intervened and helped to restore valley systems at Wied tar-Ramla, Wied Burumbara, Wied L-Infern, Wied tal-Grazzja, Wied ta’ Marsalforn and Wied il-Kbir – further valley systems have been shortlisted for intervention activities in the coming years.
Gozo Experimental Farm
The Gozo Experimental Farm premises have undergone significant renovations since 2010, resulting in a facility that will enable new research opportunities in agriculture in Gozo. The works included new offices spaces, lecturing halls, laboratories and greenhouses. The husbandry and water storage facilities were refurbished, the roads and passages were resurfaced and a computerized and irrigation system was installed.
During 2016, ecoGozo went through advanced preparations in the establishment of a mycology lab on the premises of the Government Experimental Farm. The main objective of the lab is for research and surveying experimental diseases and mould in plants, to advise local farmers on how to prevent and eliminate agricultural disease and to expand government services in agriculture.
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