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Neglected heritage sites at San Ġwann

The neglected site of the remains of the Roman tower in San Ġwann.

The neglected site of the remains of the Roman tower in San Ġwann.

Over the years the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage has maintained that an area in San Ġwann is one of Malta's more important archaeological sites bridging Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Yet, not only have they not been expropriated in the national public interest, so far they have been completely neglected if not abandoned altogether.

In spite of past support by a group of university professors and lecturers, the Ta' Ċieda Roman tower remains in Triq il-Baruża is nothing but a heap of stones and rubble. And yet it has been said that this tower "may have served as a centre point around which one of Malta's more important mediaeval settlements had developed out of late Roman economic activity in the area". Can anything or anywhere be more historical than that!

The crude temporary entrance to the "important" Roman cistern nearby has recently been hidden from view by the wall built around the whole area. I hope that this will not lead to some modern development that may destroy a huge chunk of our cultural history, in spite of the fact that as mayor of San Ġwann, I managed to have all these sites included in Mepa's list of scheduled properties. It's enough that the whole area, which according to the Museum Department and the Antiquities Committee should have been fortified by a protective buffer zone, was extensively developed by street and housing schemes.

Then, an acknowledged ancient Roman masonry wall is still buried in the little field nearby and I keep hoping that it won't be damaged or done away with altogether. The cart ruts, the only site visited by tourists, mainly German, need to be urgently rehabilitated and embellished. At the moment they have been taken over by weeds a metre high with no sight of the famous ruts. The ancient chapel of San Ġwann tal-Għargħar nearby, which gave its name to our locality, needs to be expropriated as it is crying for conservation, restoration and management.

This is another of my appeals to the right authorities to include all these significant heritage sites in San Ġwann in their plans for the preservation of our cultural history. We must not let them continue to suffer from unauthorised intervention, deterioration or neglect.

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