The Malta Independent 27 January 2022, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Road infrastructure needs to account for worsening weather

Saturday, 27 November 2021, 09:08 Last update: about 3 months ago

The heavy rainstorm that hit the Maltese Islands on Wednesday was no ordinary event, and this was clearly reflected in the flooding witnessed on many of our roads.

The government – Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg in particular – was ridiculed after images shared on the social media showed how several recent road projects had turned into lakes.

These included the recently inaugurated mega-million Marsa junction, the Regional Road tunnels, which have run over budget and timeframe, and the Coast Road, which was recently widened and resurfaced.

To be fair, one cannot lay all the blame on the government. The rainfall witnessed on Thursday was anything but ordinary. In fact, it has been reported that more inches of rain fell on Malta on Thursday the usual amount recorded throughout the entire month of November.

By and large, the new roads handle ‘normal’ rainfall well.

But the truth is that weather patterns are changing. Summers are becoming drier, and winters are getting wetter. And road planning needs to account for this change in meteorological patterns.

Climate change is a very real thing, and it is reshaping the very way we live. This means that, when planning and building new road infrastructure, we cannot continue thinking in terms of past rainfall levels. We need to start thinking in terms of the present and future circumstances, in terms of weather that will likely keep worsening with every passing year.

Quite frankly, it is surprising that this mentality has not yet been adopted. Climate change is not a new phenomenon, yet it seems that it is not taken into account when planning road projects that cost hundreds of millions of euro.

The Marsa junction, for example, was inaugurated only a few months back, but it seems that the worsening rainfall was not taken into account. The project clearly failed to handle the large volumes of water descending from Paola, Santa Lucija and Luqa and, being situated in a valley, the junction quickly disappeared below the murky waters.

Planning for irregular rainfall levels should have been particularly important when considering that the Marsa junction is the gateway from north to south, and the busiest road junction in Malta. Yet it was rendered inaccessible to cars on Wednesday, paralysing a huge section of the country.

The same can be said for Regional Road, one of the country’s main traffic arteries, and the Coast Road, which is used by tens of thousands of motorists each day.

Much was said by the government about Malta’s participation at the COP26 climate change summit, and the pledges made by the Prime Minister on mitigation efforts were a positive thing to hear. But climate change is not something that will hit us in the future and which we can stop. It is here now.

While we should definitely continue seeking ways to mitigate the effects and to reverse this lifechanging phenomenon, we must also adapt to living with the effects that are already present.

Planning for worsening weather when it comes to road infrastructure is one of the ways in which we can do that.

 

 

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