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23 October 2005
Protecting Maltese heritage

Over the past few years, efforts have been stepped up to protect the many Maltese heritage sites. Last week, restoration work on the Ggantija Temples, on the outskirts of Xaghra, was completed. The project was made possible thanks to financing through the European Union’s Solidarity Funds.
     The temples had suffered considerable damage during the heavy rain in September 2003 and a section of the temples' outer wall had collapsed. Thanks to the dedicated work of numerous professionals, the fallen stones have been put back in place and the wall rebuilt.      
     While restoration work such as that carried out on the Ggantija Temples is to be commended, much more needs to be done to protect the many other archaeological treasures that dot the islands. Other important sites that have been badly damaged by the elements and are in urgent need of attention. For example, work on the planned heritage park for Hagar Qim and Mnajdra, which will include a multi-purpose hall, has not yet begun, even though it is scheduled for completion by early 2008.
     These archaeological sites need to be covered – and there are plans to do this – without wasting more time. The tents that will be constructed should blend in well with the environment and at the same time offer the necessary protection to these priceless monuments. A similar idea has worked well in other countries where tents have been erected to protect archaeological remains. The only problem is that things move faster elsewhere than they do here.
     There are also plans to build visitors' centres at both the Tarxien Temples and the Ggantija Temples. Again, matters seem to be taking rather a long time. These amenities would make the sites more user-friendly and even attract more visitors.
     The recruitment of watchmen to take care of these historic structures, and in some cases the installation of CCTV cameras, have proved to be a deterrent to vandals. This exercise should, however, be extended to cover all monuments of national importance. Everyone agrees that it is impossible to have someone at each and every monument but it is not that difficult to install CCTV cameras and have 24-hour surveillance. It would be the less costly alternative. Setting up a central monitoring centre might also be a good idea.

Source: The Malta Independent (19 October 2005)

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