The Malta Independent 20 August 2019, Tuesday

CHOGM’s failed Ħaġar Qim tent still littering heritage site, two weeks after summit

Sunday, 13 December 2015, 09:30 Last update: about 5 years ago

Not only was it a dreadful idea to host a dinner for visiting heads of state during last month’s CHOGM in a tent next to Ħaġar Qim temple, given the area’s typically poor weather in November, but the world heritage site is still littered with the remains of the tent that was – in the event – never even used.

The dinner was eventually, and predictably, moved to an indoors venue on the day of the event because of strong winds in the area.

This week’s weather has been unusually mild and sunny, more like spring than winter,  and it has attracted even more tourists than usual to visit the Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra Temple complexes – UNESCO World Heritage sites that are also afforded maximum protection by national law. However, tourists have been met by an astonishing sight these past couple of weeks.

Apart from the monumental waste of public funds, many have expressed concern over possible damage to the nearby Neolithic temple, one of the oldest standing structures in the world. Putting tonnes of steel, wood and stone just a few metres away from a 5,000-year-old-site was arguably nonsensical to begin with.

In fact, several years ago the ground at Ħaġar Qim was covered with wooden planking to protect it from footsteps and some time before that the ground in one of the temple complexes was stabilised using modern engineering techniques as there was a fear that the megaliths might topple over.

The very spot where the tent was erected was being excavated a few years ago and other interesting structures were discovered. The place is, in fact, a treasure trove of unique value on an international level.

This newspaper visited the site last Sunday – one week after the planned dinner – and found that the structure was still in place, minus the plastic sheeting, and no dismantling work was being carried out. Subsequent visits revealed that some work was being done on removing the structure. On Thursday, trucks laden with wooden sheeting were rolling across the ground within the Ħaġar Qim enclosure, just a few metres away from the megaliths.

Work is still progressing at a snail’s pace and on another visit – just two days ago and a couple of weeks after the cancelled event – four workers on site were resting in the structure’s shade while a fifth was seen driving a smaller truck across the site.

Very slowly, too slowly in actual fact, the structure’s component parts are being put into containers, which are now occupying the parking places reserved for tourist coaches near the Interpretation Centre.

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