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Title: The cost of soil replacement : a Maltese case study
Authors: Role, Avertano
Attard, George
Keywords: Soil conservation -- Malta
Agriculture and state -- Malta
Issue Date: 2004
Publisher: MEDCOASTLAND Publications
Citation: Role, A., & Attard, G. (2004). The cost of soil replacement : a Maltese case study. MEDCOASTLAND Workshop, Marrakesh.
Abstract: Soil erosion only enters national accounting systems when soil loss is reflected in lost agricultural productivity, or becomes manifest with costs sustained by damage through flooding, siltation of dams, landslides, and other associated phenomena. On islands that are prone to desertification, however, soil loss needs to be better accounted since the costs of soil replacement and rehabilitation are often prohibitively expensive. Circumscribed agricultural space provides the necessary incentive for investment in soil conservation measures and, in certain cases, a long history of such measures results in a wealth of soil retention structures. Soil conservation has been practised in the densely populated Maltese islands for several hundred years. Slope terracing and armouring of the terrace face with retaining dry stonewalls represents a rich resource which has not yet been quantified. Yet the cost of maintaining such soil conservation structures is becoming increasingly prohibitive despite the downstream costs of their eventual failure. Legislation has been enacted aimed at preserving rubble walls since these are now also regarded as a unique landscape feature but well-targeted economic incentives and support infrastructures are crucial in this regard. In fact, the Maltese Government has, over the past few years, promoted rubble wall repairs by creating groups of skilled workers trained in the craft of rubble wall building. Malta's joining the European Union in May 2004 also means that EU funds would be utilised in this regard but this needs careful management. Despite such state initiatives, alternative non-state subsidies need to be identified and this demands the identification of net beneficiaries of soil conservation. The most easily identifiable stakeholders are farmers but the tourist sector and water management authorities should also be enlisted within soil conservation management. Other stakeholders include those sectors that are adversely affected by soil erosion. In this case, insurance companies and road maintenance agencies should also be involved in soil management initiatives.
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