The Heritage Planning Unit within MEPA have recently scheduled a tract of land located between Mosta and Naxxar, known as Tal-Wej, with the aim of ensuring a high level of protection for the area. Tal-Wej is an important archaeological landscape, which provides a largely pristine contextual setting for a large number of archaeological and historical features. These features, date from a far back as the Bronze Age to the Early Modern Period and overlap to form a common cultural landscape. These features include dolmens, cart-ruts, ancient quarries, shaft and chamber tombs, vine trenches, a 16th century chapel and two corbelled huts.
The Tal-Wej area is also being protected for its natural heritage as it is characterised by karstland and dominated by a mixture of rocky steppe and, to a lesser extent, by garigue communities. One of the main characteristics of Tal-Wej is the number of temporary freshwater rockpools (kamenitzas), which are an EU priority habitat type. The south-eastern area supports one of the largest rockpools in the Maltese Islands having characteristics of a transient freshwater wetland.
The objective of this scheduling is twofold – firstly, to protect Tal-Wej karstland on its own merits as a component of the nation’s natural heritage and secondly, to act as a development control mechanism in line with the regulatory framework of the Structure Plan for the Maltese Islands and subsidiary plans and policies.
Through the scheduling the area is being declared as an an Area of Archaeological Importance (AAI). All of the archaeological features within the site are being individually scheduled at an appropriate class or grade.
AAIs are associated exclusively with rural areas and are defined as areas in which a number of related, or unrelated, Sites of Archaeological Importance and/or features of archaeological value, pertaining to the same period, or not, are present and are to be preserved as the best examples of local archaeological heritage.
The karstland and network of rockpools are scheduled as a Level 2 Site of Scientific Importance and Area of Ecological Importance, with Level 3 buffer zones to provide holistic protection of this ecological community.