After a few days of intense rainfall the Maltese Islands experienced substantial flooding. Some areas are always affected more than others. Some good examples are Msida, Birkirkara, Gżira and other low-lying areas.
However, this time we experienced some unexpected flooding in another area, namely at Kennedy Grove. Such flooding events will not be uncommon in the coming years and will probably only get worse over time. Many people blame the weather as a cause of flooding. Although of course the intensive periods of rainfall which we encounter in the Maltese Islands are normal for the Mediterranean region, climate change is increasing the severity of such storms.
However, Malta experienced severe storm events in the past as well. The main cause of this severe flooding is the constant increase in urbanisation. In the last 50 years urbanisation increase from 9% in the late 60s to over 30%. The problem is that urban landscapes, including buildings and roads, do not let water percolate through the ground. In other words, these impermeable materials do not allow water to be absorbed. Therefore, rainwater will start to collect on bare ground and flow to lower areas as surface runoff.
Additionally, another issue we face in the Maltese Islands is the lack of enforcement of legislation with regards to wells. By law every household must have a well. However, due to lack of enforcement, new buildings do not have a well which could additionally store a vast amount of water.
A good example of this is the recent flooding of the brand new coast road at Kennedy Grove. Currently we are experiencing flooding almost whenever it rains. Moreover, storm flooding is expected to get worse in future due to climate changes and the continuous urbanisation of our island.
Long-term solutions do exist, such as green roofing, planting of trees and proper management plans. However, in Malta at the moment we are doing the exact opposite and we are trying to solve the problem by short-term flood relief projects by throwing away freshwater into the sea. Are we ready to move towards a sustainable future and reduce flooding in a proper way or do we want to continue using unsustainable short-term solutions?
Pascal Aloisio – ADŻ Malta Green Youth Publications Officer