Photos from the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century show how the Saluting Battery in Upper Barrakka used to look: where for the last 15 years there has been turf, before that the ground was made from a hard surface (terra battuta).
The Chief Executive of Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna, Mario Farrugia is proposing that the Saluting Battery be returned to its original state. If this proposal is implemented it may be part of the solution to the damage which was caused over the years by the irrigation which was leaking into the Lascaris War Rooms.
There is water on the floor, walls which are damp and a smell of mould. This is the situation which greets you when you enter the tunnels and room underneath Upper Barrakka which lead to the Lascaris War Rooms.
Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna, which takes care of these historical places, is trying to compensate for the decisions taken years ago, including the decision to use turf directly over the war rooms. Although the grass has provided a nice patch of greenery, it is also creating problems underground.
Mario Farrugia said that this problem represents a headache for them. “It took four years for us to solve this. First we needed to find a solution for the leak to stop and interventions were carried out, but we also had to wait two and a half years for the water to drain into the rocks. But we still have a problem because it is generating mould.”
The problem with the water which is being drained is also affecting the War Headquarters which are located exactly underneath the Barrakka gardens. As a result these headquarters cannot be opened to the public which is also detrimental to the finances of the Foundation.
Mr Farrugia said that part of the changes should include the introduction of good-sized trees in pots in order for the problems which were caused underground not to be repeated. “Here it makes a lot of sense to have trees since there is no shade. And since the cannons are an attraction which draw thousands of tourists, people end up under the blazing sun.”
Around 700 thousand people, most of them tourists, last year watched the cannon gun salute which is held every day at noon. The Lascaris War Rooms alone draw around 85,000 people.