The Malta Independent 17 July 2019, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Construction waste crisis - More than a short-term fix is needed

Monday, 11 February 2019, 11:11 Last update: about 5 months ago

The environment ministry and the developers’ association stepped forward on Saturday to try and find a temporary fix to the huge problem that is the lack of space for construction waste.

Last week, one of a couple of quarries that is currently receiving building waste decided to double its fees, raising fears that this would lead to higher property prices. Prices per tonne of construction waste deposited at the quarry were hiked up from €7 to €15. The government and the MDA have now announced that the price will remain stable at €8 per tonne for the next year and a half.

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While the move was a necessary one, the government should not have allowed things to reach this stage. Furthermore, this is only a temporary solution, and it will not last long.

Last year, Partit Demokratiku warned the government that space where to dump construction waste was quickly running out. The government had said at the time that the Enrivornment and Resources Authority had issued permits to ten quarries, allowing them to start receiving construction waste. An exercise carried out by this newspaper found that, apart from these ten quarries, there are several others that are allowed to receive waste generated by the construction industry – in total there are over 20 quarries that can do that. But for varying reasons, only two are currently accepting the material, which is being generated in ever growing quantities.

So, no, fixing market prices for a year and a half is not enough. More spaces must be found where to deposit the material. And more efficient ways of dumping construction waste, maximizing use of the limited spaces we have, must be implemented. One wonders what the situation will be like when the mega projects at St George’s Bay kick off, and how much worse things will get when we start digging the Malta-Gozo tunnel.

The government has been promising a long-term strategy for construction waste disposal but, like in the case of the fuel station review and the Paceville master plan, it has so far failed to deliver. Solutions are needed now.

But this cannot be pinned on the government alone. After all, this is a problem that is being created by developers. So, once again, while the MDA did well to help stabilize dumping fees for the time being, it must be part of a long-term solution. This is their mess, and they must be at the forefront of the efforts to solve the problem.

Even the Church’s Environment Commission made this point in a statement on Saturday, saying that what has long been crystal clear to people with a strategic vision, does not seem to have been so obvious to whoever was or is responsible for generating such waste and to the authorities who should have devised plans to avoid ending up in the situation we are in today long ago.

Indeed, this is not a problem that came like a bolt from the blue, but is rather a problem that could have been anticipated from several years ago. The current administration, which likes construction, high rise towers and land reclamation so much, should have first thought of a plan for getting rid of all the limestone, brick and cement that is being pulled down, only to be replaced by more limestone, brick and cement.

If we really plan on being the best in Europe, nay, the best in the world, we really need to start thinking things through before we actually embark on such ambitious plans.

We cannot keep shooting first and asking questions later.

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