The Malta Independent 21 March 2023, Tuesday
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Flooding the town Red

Mary Muscat Sunday, 29 January 2023, 09:15 Last update: about 3 months ago

The effects of the infrastructural changes taking place in Mosta are bewildering, to say the least. From what I can deduce on paper, the flooding prevention mechanism will only exacerbate the problem.

I’d rather be writing about the criminal justice and community safety issues that cropped up this week, but the Mosta issue hits close to home, and literally in my case.  I have lived right next to the Wied il-Għasel system most of my life and made it the topic of my first degree’s dissertation back in 1991. Yet, because I don’t have a Mosta address anymore, I’m disqualified from submitting my feedback to the Council, and so I’m dedicating this piece to the subject.


The Council’s rushed three-minute presentation on the stormwater plan for Mosta during the public consultation on January 21st convinced me that there’s more that the public needs to know, and it’s not convenient to do so. The main issue is channelling Mosta’s rain catchment runoff at one specific point, through two one-metre diameter culverts to solve street flooding.

To start off with, there are other naturally formed inflows to the Għasel valley system within the Mosta catchment, but only one was arbitrarily chosen to funnel the run-off: Pjazza 16 ta’ Settembru. The Wied is-Sir point behind the Basilica, the Wied l-Isperanza side and the Constitution bridge area were ignored. The justification of focusing solely on the Square wasn’t given to the public even if it clearly messes up the valley dynamics since it’s the narrowest of the tributaries and there is nothing that dams the surge. Outlets like Wied l-Isperanza are already equipped for this for example, so why re-invent the wheel?

Where is the Environmental Impact Assessment? And how can a quasi 90 degree turn in the proposed culvert do its job efficiently?

There are arable fields that will be drastically impacted by the water surge in the valley. Most of them either belong to the Joint Office or fall under the rural lease regime, except for my family’s property, which is fully owned and for this reason will probably stand to lose the most. Why weren’t the persons affected spoken to individually by the Local Council? Is it because of arrogance or inexperience?

From what I’ve heard so far, critics are asked to quantify the water volume that will flood the valley. This is pure gaslighting, because if the project is actually meant to prevent flooding, then what’s the point? Mathematically there’s going to be a surge because the all the extra surplus run-off from a wider catchment will be added to the usual valley run-off. It’s elementary.

Flooding the capacity of a valley tributary in this manner isn’t sustainable. Who’s caring about the valley’s conservation and protection? What about the endemic tree species? Are these going to be damaged or uprooted by the excess water? Will the privately-funded conservation go to waste?  If the damage is irreversible, isn’t that the definition of an environmental crime in Cap. 522?

The rainstorm last December wreaked havoc on the same valley stretch precisely because of the compounded runoff of Constitution and Isouard Streets. If that produced up to two metres of water that almost submerged the lower terraced fields, what will all the volume of water bursting into the valley from a larger catchment area look like funnelled through just one place? One storey high? What else will it drag along?

The idea brings back the 1979 memory of that storm where water high enough to float Noah’s Ark gorged by and the whole area took months to get back to normal. I was 9 years old at the time and still remember the devastating rising waters submerging the family’s and neighbours’ fields and wiping away the soil cover. My grandfather has farmed the place since 1933 and my mother lived there since 1937. This collective memory and detailed knowledge of the valley is not to be discounted.

Did the Local Council consult its lawyers on any possible legal repercussions? Are they aware of having to answer for their actions individually and in solidum especially with regards to civil damages? The project will cause loss of soil, agricultural produce, animal husbandry, afforestation, investments and eventually loss of property value and inheritances. Plus, it will violate the basic human right of enjoying one’s property.

There’s no glory in crushing livelihoods.

Why isn’t the Council following nature’s pattern and distributing the excess waters into all the available natural outflows instead? It’s not a problem of gradient, surely.  I’m not convinced that specifically choosing the 16th September Square is coincidental. Read between the lines. There’s clearly political motivation of the wrong kind and anyone applauding this targeted hounding is equally criminal.

Green Deal? It’s bad enough sacrificing fields to the urban and traffic gods, and now this.  

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