The Malta Independent 3 June 2020, Wednesday

MDA willing to discuss reduction in construction hours, eNGOs want excavation to stop

Saturday, 4 April 2020, 15:41 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Malta Developers Association said today that it is willing to discuss a reduction in construction hours.

In a statement, MDA said it understands the unavoidable inconvenience to the public caused by ongoing construction projects, particularly excavation and demolition. 

It said it is willing to discuss with the authorities a temporary reduction in the working hours of the construction industry during these challenging times caused by the Covid-19 emergency. 


"The MDA will have no difficulty to agree to a new temporary working time framework whilst also ensuring that the 16,000 employees involved directly in the industry and their families are duly compensated for the loss in their income through public schemes identical to those given to other industries and businesses."

The MDA noted that currently there are two different and conflicting laws dictating the time when certain construction works can commence.  

"Although the direction given by the authorities to the industry during these past years was always that works can only start at 7am, the MDA, on its own initiative, is directing its members to abide by the most recent of the two conflicting laws, which states that works which create noise can only start after 8am. This initiative should help in reducing the inconvenience to neighbouring residents during sensitive hours."

The association said it has also received reports that some individuals who are "mostly not MDA members" are commencing excavation and demolition works much earlier that the time permitted by law, in some instances as early as 5am.

"The MDA condemns these individuals and calls on the authorities and the government to strictly enforce the rules."

MDA is also proposing that, in order of holding everyone to account and in view of already stringent policing resources, the government directs local councils and community officers to enforce the construction laws and ensure that they are fully abided to by everyone with no distinction.

eNGOs call for suspension of building site excavation

Several environmental NGOs have joined the St Julian's, Sliema, San Ġwann, Swieqi and Gżira mayors in calling for construction work to be limited to 8.30am - 1pm during the Coronavirus pandemic.

However, the eNGOs are calling for a total suspension of all excavation works during the COVID-19 crisis.

"The noise emission levels caused by excavation work is between 95 and 110 decibels, when the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that exposure to noise above 85 decibels is dangerous to human health," they said.

Furthermore, excavation vibrations have caused widespread structural damage to residents' dwellings.

Thee eNGOs called for a change from the present excavation method to "Hydraulic Rock Splitting" technology. This method which is almost silent and does not cause vibration is used in Europe and other countries, why are the authorities not insisting on its use in Malta?

"Besides aggression and other anti-social behaviour, exposure to intense levels of noise interferes with concentration, causes depression and anxiety - especially due to the very real worry of home collapses caused by excavations. Elderly residents in Malta are known to have spiraled into dementia during extended periods of excavation drilling near their homes."

The WHO stresses that, "Prolonged exposure to environmental noise can lead to reduced cognitive performance in children as well as severe annoyance and sleep disturbance," they said.

"It is a gross injustice that at a time when residents are facing such stressful times, they should be subjected to the mental torture of percussion drilling at 110 decibels for 8 hours a day."

Moreover, elevated noise levels are linked to increased workplace accident rates which led emergency doctor Jonathan Joslin to call for all non-essential construction to cease immediately since "a large percentage of major trauma dealt with in the Emergency Department over the past year resulted from construction sites", depriving hospitals of resources now needed for COVID-19 patients. 

"Besides noise pollution, the air pollution caused by construction is exacerbating pulmonary problems like asthma and reduces immunity to disease. This makes sufferers more vulnerable to COVID-19, placing further strain on medical resources."

Residents confined to their homes are being subjected to unbearable noise which they can't escape, while children and the elderly cannot even relax in their gardens which are unbearably noisy or choked by dust from nearby developments. Equally, residents are not able to open their windows due to the dust generated by construction sites, the NGOs said.

"It is bad enough that developers have just been granted a three-year extension on permits. eNGOs and residents demand to know why construction is not being curtailed like other non-essential sectors. It is shocking that in order to protect this sacred cow, politicians are permitting developers to continue to inflict suffering on residents at this time of national crisis, hampering COVID-19 medical efforts."

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