The Malta Independent 28 January 2023, Saturday
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TMID Editorial: When it rains, it floods

Thursday, 1 December 2022, 12:24 Last update: about 3 months ago

It happens anywhere in the world that, when it rains heavily, there is unexpected flooding. Often it is also coupled by avalanches which, as happened over the weekend on the Italian island of Ischia, could be deadly. With climate change, such heavy downpours have become more frequent, and we should expect more of them.

In Malta, it happens every time it rains, whether it’s mild precipitation or torrential. But is seems that we have done very little, if anything at all, to avoid the disruption that rain causes to traffic, given that each time it rains the roads are flooded.

And it does not only happen in the notorious low-lying areas. It still happens there, and it has probably become worse than it was some time ago, but it happens almost everywhere that storm-water accumulates in our roads, inevitably leading to chaos, and danger too.

We have done something wrong over the last 50-60 years to get to this point. And we are mentioning a timeframe so as not to come across as wanting to blame just this administration, or the current minister responsible for the infrastructure, who has been in office for just eight months. We are putting the responsibility on both Nationalist and Labour governments who gave little thought to the adverse effects of rain when building new roads or widening others.

Many big projects were undertaken in the past decades to improve the road network. Given the increase in the number of cars that we experienced – and continue to experience – many of them were necessary. But in the haste to meet with the demand, the roads that have been constructed do not cater for times when it rains.

If we’re told that, yes, attention was given to this aspect, then it is clear that this “attention” was not enough and that, yes, we can speak of a failure.

What has made matters worse is that, over many years, we have continued to build in areas where we should not have built, and this has meant that the natural flow of the water was disrupted, and now it is channelling itself into the main road arteries.  

There should have been a better focus on how the problem of rainwater should have been tackled. Maybe there are some adjustments that could be made to lessen the disruption in roads that have already been built.

But we should certainly learn from these mistakes so as not to repeat them in future projects. And one big plan that is on the cards is that of Msida Creek, a place that is always flooded each time it rains. The government is now planning a mega-project that is intended to improve the traffic flow in this busy area.

We have been told that planners for the new project have taken this into account, and that the plan includes an underground storm-water system that is aimed to alleviate the flooding problem.

We will have to wait and see if these plans will work. We hope they will.

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