L-ilma tax-xita: l-inkompetenza tal-awtoritajiet

Il-Ministru tal-Finanzi Edward Scicluna, fl-aħħar diskors tal-Baġit qalilna : “Il-Gvern huwa wkoll kommess li jkompli jaħdem biex jitnaqqas ir-riskju tal-għargħar f’pajjiżna. Għaldaqstant, se jsiru studji dettaljati sabiex jiġu żviluppati aktar miżuri li jistgħu jnaqqsu dan ir-riskju filwaqt li jimmassimizzaw l-użu tal-ilma tax-xita.”

Edward Scicluna bla dubju jaf li bħala riżultat tat-tibdil fil-klima l-maltempati kif ukoll ix-xita qed ikunu ta’ natura iktar intensivi. Meta tinżel ix-xita, b’mod partikolari meta tkun qawwija, l-infrastruttura tagħna ma tistax tlaħħaq. Imma minbarra l-impatti kkawżati mill-klima għandna fuqna ukoll il-piz u r-riskji kkawżati minn regolaturi nkompetenti.

F’Malta għal dawn l-aħħar 138 sena, il-liġi pprovdiet biex ikun hemm l-obbligu li jkollna l-bjar għall-ilma tax-xita fid-djar. Il-qisien tal-bjar varja tul is-snin. Originalment il-qies kien dipendenti fuq il-qies total tas-sulari kollha mibnija. Illum il-ġurnata dan tnaqqas biex ikun relatat mal-qies tal-art mibnija.

Sfortunatament dawn ir-regoli ftit huma osservati. Din mhiex storja li bdiet illum, ilha għaddejja snin twal possibilment sa mis-snin 60, żmien meta l-industrija tal-bini kienet għaddejja b’rankatura kbira. Jiena niftakar, meta kont għadni student, ftit snin ilu mhux ħażin, kont rajt rapport li kien tħejja għall-Gvern Malti minn esperti mibgħuta mill-Ġnus Magħquda. Dakinnhar diġa kien ċar li waqt u wara maltempati qawwija l-ilma għaddej mis-sistema tad-drenaġġ kien jiżdied b’mod astronomiku u dan billi ħafna ilma tax-xita flok ma jinġabar fil-bjar kien qed jintrema fid-drenaġġ. Is-sitwazzjoni, minn dakinnhar, marret ħafna għall-agħar!

Flok mal-ilma tax-xita jinġabar fil-bjar, f’ħafna każi qed jintrema fit-toroq, inkella direttament fis-sistema tad-drenaġġ pubbliku. Ammont enormi ta’ ilma tax-xita li nistgħu nutilizzaw qed jintrema. Ħafna, jekk jużaw l-ilma tax-xita jistgħu jnaqqsu b’mod drastiku l-kontijiet tal-ilma!

Meta l-ilma tax-xita jintrema fid-drenaġġ, dan mhux biss ifur fit-toroq tagħna imma minħabba li jgħabbi l-impjant tal-purifikazzjoni tad-drenaġġ b’ammont zejjed ta’ ilma iżid b’mod konsiderevoli l-ispejjes għat tmexxija tal-impjant.

Il-parti l-kbira tal-ħtija għal dan trid tinġarr minn dawk li jiżviluppaw il-propjetá. Anke l-Gvern, direttament, kif ukoll permezz tal-aġenziji tiegħu, fil-passat riċenti kien responsabbli għall-iżvilupp ta’ housing estates li fihom ma tinġabarx qatra ilma tax-xita!
Hu fatt magħruf li fejn żvilupp residenzjali jkun fih garaxxijiet parzjalment jew kompletament taħt il-livell tat-triq ftit għandna bjar għall-ilma tax-xita. L-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar hi responsabbli biex tassigura li l-kundizzjonijiet tal-permessi tal-iżvilupp ikunu osservati: dawn kważi dejjem jinkludu l-obbligu li jinbena bir biex fih jinġabar l-ilma tax-xita. Imma ħafna drabi, għall-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar, qiesu ma ġara xejn jekk il-bir ippjanat jibqa’ fuq il-karta.

Min-naħa l-oħra, l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma (WSC) matul dawn l-aħħar snin assumiet ir-responsabbiltá għas-sistema kollha tad-drenaġġ, liema responsabbiltá qabel kienet f’idejn id-Dipartiment tad-Drenaġġ. Din ir-responsabbiltá tinkludi l-għoti tal-permess biex bini ġdid jiġi imqabbad mas-sistema tad-drenaġġ.

Il-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma x’verifiki qed tagħmel li l-katusi tad-drenaġġ biss qed jitqabbdu mas-sistema pubblika tad-drenaġġ? Qed isiru verifiki li m’hemmx katusi tal-ilma tax-xita ukoll? It-tweġiba teħduha waħedkom fit-toroq tagħna f’ġurnata ta’ xita qliel. Ħadd mhu jagħmel verifika dwar dak li qed jiġri.

Dan kollu jwassal għall-konklużjoni li waqt li l-ħtija ewlenija għall-qagħda preżenti hi tal-industrija tal-bini, għax, iktar le milli iva ma tipprovdix bjar għall-ilma tax-xita fi żvilupp ġdid, il-ħtija mhiex tagħha biss. L-awtoritajiet u d-dipartimenti tal-Gvern għandhom ukoll iġorru s-sehem tagħhom tar-responsabbiltá minħabba li ma onorawx l-obbligi regolatorji tagħhom. L-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar u l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma (u dawk li ġew qabilhom) setgħu waqqfu dan l-abbuz, imma ma għamlu xejn.

Meta jkollna xita qliel, jew xita għal ħin twil, diffiċli tgħaddi minn ċertu toroq f’Malta u Għawdex. Dan hu sors ta’ periklu u fil-fatt id-Dipartiment tal-Protezzjoni Ċivili ikun okkupat ħafna f’dawn iż-żminijiet jgħin lil min ikun f’diffikulta minħabba l-għargħar.
Fondi tal-Unjoni Ewropea ntużaw biex jiġu ffinanzjati mini taħt l-art biex l-ilma tax-xita fit-toroq jinġabar u jintrema l-baħar. Fondi pubbliċi intużaw biex jinħbew irregolaritajiet li sar mis-settur privat. Mhux biss, imma ntużaw ukoll biex riżors prezzjuż jintrema. Dawn il-fondi setgħu intużaw ferm aħjar kieku intużaw biex l-ilma inġabar u nħażen fl-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna, flok ma ntrema.

Il-parir tiegħi lil Edward Scicluna hu li, flok ma jinħlew iktar fondi pubbliċi, għandu jassigura ruħu li l-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar u l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma jwettqu l-obbligi regolatorji tagħhom. Meta jagħmlu dan, parti mdaqqsa mill-problema tal-ilmijiet fit-toroq tagħna tisparixxi.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: 4 ta’ Novembru 2018

Advertisements

Rainwater: the cost of incompetence

In his latest Budget speech, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna informed us that more studies will be carried out to identify flooding risks, simultaneously seeking to maximise the use of rainwater.

Edward Scicluna is aware that, as a result of climate change, storms are more intense than ever. When it rains, it pours, and our infrastructure is not capable of handling the resulting rainwater. To add to the impact of climate change, we also have to deal with the risks created as a direct result of incompetent regulators.

For the past 138 years,legislation in Malta has specifically provided for the construction of water cisterns in buildings, primarily residential ones. The dimensions of these water cisterns varied over time. Originally, they were related to the floor area of the residence but in the recent past, the required volume was reduced to be related to the footprint of the building.

These regulatory provisions are, however, more honoured in the breach, even when reduced. This is not a recent phenomenon. Regulatory control in Malta has been in steep decline since the building boom of the 1960s. I remember, while I was still a student – many moons ago- leafing through a UN expert-financed report penned in the late 1960s which, even then, had measured the significant increase in foul water in our sewers during intense rainfall, clearly indicating that too much rainwater was going to waste notwithstanding the collection obligations. The situation has not improved since!

Instead of being collected in rainwater cisterns, in an ever-increasing number of cases rainwater is discharged directly onto our roads or into the public sewers. Large volumes of rainwater, which can be utilised for various purposes, are being wasted. Its use domestically could substantially reduce water bills.

When rainwater is discharged into our public sewers, not only does the water overflow onto our streets, but it also increases the costs of sewage purification unnecessarily.
The major culprits are a substantial portion of the developers of blocks of flats and maisonettes. The government, both directly, as well as through its agencies, has also (in the recent past) been responsible for the development of housing estates without providing for the collection of rainwater.

In particular, it is common knowledge that in cases where basement or semi-basement garages are constructed, the duty to provide for the collection of rainwater is very rarely complied with. The Planning Authority (PA) is responsible for determining and ensuring the observance of the conditions of development permits which, in most cases, specify the required capacity of a rainwater cistern.

Over the years, the Water Services Corporation (WSC) has taken over responsibility for the management of the public sewers from the former Drainage Department. This responsibility includes authorising the owners of newly- constructed properties to connect the drains with the public sewer. Is the WSC verifying that it is only the drains that are connected and, in particular, that rainwater pipes are not connected to the public sewer too? The obvious answer is provided by our streets on a rainy day. Clearly, no one is bothering to check what is connected to the public sewer.

This leads to the conclusion that, while the culprit for the present state of affairs is the building industry because, more often than not, it does not provide for rainwater storage in new developments, it is not the only one to blame. The authorities and government departments must take a substantial share of the blame for not complying with their regulatory responsibilities. The PA and the WSC could have stopped the abuse, but they did not.

A number of areas are practically out of bounds whenever heavy or continuous rain hits the Maltese islands. This is a source of danger and, in fact, the Civil Protection Department is heavily involved in assisting residents or motorists who are trapped as a result of flooding.

Money made available by the EU has been used to fund a project for the construction of underground tunnels, as a result of which rainwater from our streets and roads is being collected and discharged into the sea. Public funds have been used to cover up private irregularities.

The EU funds utilised in the construction of these tunnels have been used to squander a very precious resource. European taxpayers’ money has also have been flushed down the drain. This could have been put to a much better use had it been applied to address the lack of adequate rainwater harvesting in our towns and villages.

My advice to Edward Scicluna is that before wasting any more public funds he should ensure that the Planning Authority and the Water Services Corporation carry out their regulatory responsibilities. When they do, a considerable part of the problem of the flooding of our streets will disappear.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 4 November 2018

Green gaps in the Budget

The green gaps in the Budget speech cannot be patched up with the millions of euros spread in the pockets of both those in need as well as those who are well off.

Edward Scicluna’s Budget speech last Monday was far too long. Yet in its over 100 pages it missed addressing a number of environmental issues on which different government spokespersons pontificate throughout the rest of the year: confirming that they just pay lip-service to the issues.

The lack of good environmental governance has considerable economic and social impact as is evident to one and all.

While the Budget proposals strengthen the social safety net, it is to be underlined that quality of life is not measured solely in terms of financial metrics. Throwing euros at problems does not lead to any solutions.

The budget speech correctly emphasises the necessity of waste recycling. Unfortunately, the Minister for Finance did not explain how this effort should be integrated into a circular economy, even though the Environment Minister repeatedly boasts of how supposedly the move towards a circular economy is a priority for government. In the entire speech, the circular economy is not mentioned once. Nor does the Economic Survey dwell on the matter or even faintly refer to the matter.

This raises the suspicion that government has lost the plot and does not have any policy ideas on such an important aspect of the economy with its social, economic and environmental effects.

The Budget speech emphasises the energy generation potential from waste incineration which requires large volumes of waste in order to be viable. But the budget speech is silent on how this fits in with the stated commitment to actually reduce the volume of waste.

The government is trying to square the circle; on the one hand it wants to reduce waste but on the other hand it needs more and more waste to make its huge incinerator viable.
The Budget speech also gives the impression that it addresses important aspects which impact the quality of life when in fact offers only half-baked and token solutions.

Among them is the point on water policy. The speech mentions incentives to encourage repairs of existing wells but then it avoids altogether a real and focused effort to address the acute issue of dwellings built without water cisterns, with the consequence that water ends up in the public sewers or flooding our streets.

Developers are let of the hook even when roads are flooded and sewers are overflowing, not to mention the sheer waste of perfectly good water.

The same can be said of the supposed solutions to traffic congestion. The Budget speech refers to the financial incentives available to encourage the use of alternative modes of transport, but here again it ignores the roots of the problem. The government spending of millions of euros for the development of the road infrastructure will only increase traffic congestion, thereby squeezing users of alternative means of transport off the roads.

It is useless to incentivize the purchase of bicycles and pedelecs when there is no investment in adequate infrastructure to ensure that people can commute safely using these important alternative means of transport, which actually help to decrease congestion in our roads.

Over one year ago the Prime Minister had taken a leaf from Alternattiva Demokratika’s electoral manifesto and declared that the government will determine a cut-off date by which new cars will need to be electrically driven or possibly of a hybrid nature.

This declaration had heralded the issue of electrification of transport on our roads addressing two major issues: the quality of air and the contribution of transport emissions to climate change. This, once implemented, would be a substantial contribution to the decarbonisation of the Maltese economy. We are none the wiser on government plans after listening to or reading the budget speech.

Clearly financial parameters are not the only indicators of our quality of life. The green gaps in the budget speech need plugging at the soonest.

published in The Sunday Times of Malta : Sunday 28 October 2018

Tal-Coca Cola jħobbu jdaħħqu

 

Fl-aħbarijiet ta’ TVM qalulna kemm il-Fondazzjoni Coca Cola għandha għal qalba il-priservazzjoni tal-ilma. Tant li daħlet għal proġett ta’ tiswija ta’ ġiebja mdaqqsa fil-Palazz ta’ Sant Anton biex ikun possibli li s-siġar ta’ citru fil-ġonna tal-President jissaqqew bl-ilma tax-xita flok mill-boreholes.

Inizzjattiva tajba u f’waqtha.

Imma forsi issa l-Coca Cola jistgħu jgħidulna meta ser jagħlqu ukoll il-boreholes li jużaw fil-fabbrika tagħhom fil-Marsa?

Għax x’jiswa li xxerred id-dmugħ tal-kukkudrilli għall-boreholes ta’ ħaddieħor u mbagħad inti, mingħajr l-ilma tal-boreholes ma tgħaddix?

Narmu l-ilma tax-xita fil-baħar

Malta storm

 

Nhar il-Ġimgħa l-inżul tax-xita ma waqafx u bosta mit-toroq prinċipali kienu mimlijin ilma. Kien hemm ukoll tappieri tad-drenaġġ f’xi inħawi li kienu qed ifawwru ilma jrejjaħ. Dan kollu mhux l-ewwel darba li ġara. Jiġri kull meta tagħmel xita qawwija jew inkella xita fit-tul.

Dan ġara u jibqa’ jiġri minħabba f’inkompetenza tal-awtoritajiet tul is-snin. Għax, minkejja li ilna iktar minn 135 sena b’liġijiet u policies li jobbligaw li l-ilma tax-xita li jaqa’ fuq il-bjut tar-residenzi tagħna jinġabar f’bir apposta, dan, ħafna drabi, ma jsirx.

Flok ma jinġabar fil-bir, dan l-ilma jispiċċa fit-triq inkella fid-drenaġġ. Għalhekk ikollna ħafna ilma fit-triq kif ukoll tappieri jfawru d-drenaġġ!  Din hi responsabbiltá ta’ min għażel li jagħlaq għajnjeh għall-irregolaritajiet minkejja li kellu l-obbligu li  jara li dawn l-irregolaritajiet ma jseħħux.

Xi snin ilu, f’eserċiżżju ta’ ħela ta’ flus, il-Gvern kien iddeċieda li jinfoq il-miljuni (inkluż ammont sostanzjali mill-fondi tal-Unjoni Ewropeja) biex iħaffer mini taħt l-art ħalli fihom jinġabar l-ilma tax-xita li imbagħad fil-parti l-kbira tiegħu, jintrema l-baħar. Il-Gvern immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi kien daħal għal din l-ispiża minnflok ma dar fuq is-sidien tar-residenzi (u fejn applikabbli fuq l-iżviluppaturi li bnewhom) biex iħaffru l-bjar nieqsa ħalli b’hekk, l-ilma tax-xita, flok ma jinġabar fit-toroq u fid-drenaġġ li jfur fit-toroq u l-bajjiet tagħna, fil-parti l-kbira tiegħu jibda jinġabar f’dawn il-bjar.

Minflok ma l-ispejjes tħallsu minn dawk li ħolqu l-problema,  tqiegħed piż ieħor fuq l-ispiża pubblika. Minn fondi pubbliċi tħallsu l-ispejjes tal-iżbalji li saru minn min kien responsabbli għall-iżvilupp.

Fost il-kawża ta’ dawn il-problemi, hemm blokki ta’ flats u maisonettes f’kull parti ta’ Malta u Għawdex.

Bħala pajjiż, infaqna l-flus biex irmejna l-ilma l-baħar ħalli mbagħad nerġgħu niġbruh mill-baħar fl-impjanti tar-reverse osmosis. Kien ikun ħafna iktar utli kieku dan l-ilma nġabar fid-djar tagħna kif kienu jagħmlu bi ħsieb missierijietna. Għax in-natura kull sena tipprovdilna biżżejjed ilma għall-parti l-kbira tal-ħtiġijiet tagħna u huwa kollu tort tagħna li din ir-riżorsa prezzjusa qed tinħela.

Ippublikat f’Illum : Il-Ħadd 20 ta’ Novembru 2016

L-ilma tax-xita: forsi nibdew niġbruh

flooding B'Kara.301113

 

 

Hi aħbar tajba li qed jittieħdu inizjattivi biex inqas ilma jintrema l-baħar. Għadni kif smajt intervista mal-Inġinier Paul Micallef mill-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma li spjega kif iktar tard din is-sena ser ikun konkluż proġett li bħala riżultat tiegħu madwar 7 miljun metru kubu ta’ ilma ser ikun użat għall-agrikuktura u għall-industrija. Qed jingħad li bħala riżultat ta’ investiment sostanzjali l-kwalità tal-ilma prodotta ser tkun aħjar minn dak li presentement qed ikun prodott mill-Impjant ta’ Sant Antnin.

Dan hu tajjeb u ħadd ma jista’ jiddeskrivieh mod ieħor.

Tajjeb imma li nirrealizzaw li ħafna mill-ilma tax-xita qed jinħela għax fil-parti l-kbira tal-propjetà residenzjali li inbniet matul dawn l-aħħar 50 sena ma hemmx bjar. Din hi l-kawża tal-parti l-kbira tal-ilma tax-xita li jinġabar fit-toroq tagħna inkella li jiżbroffa mid-drenaġġ.

 

Toroq mgħarrqa ……… traffiku iġġammjat

 

msida_water. 021015

 

Rġajna għal darba oħra. Maltempata u t-toroq tagħna jegħrqu u t-traffiku jiġġammja.

Ħafna minn dak l-ilma li hemm bħalissa jiġri fit-toroq seta nġabar fi bjar. Imma parti mhux żgħira mill-bini tagħna m’għandux bir.

Min hu responsabbli?

L-ewwel responsabbiltà hi ovvjament ta’ min għamel l-iżvilupp mingħajr ma għamel bir.

Imma mhux waħdu.

Miegħu iridu jerfgħu r-responsabbiltà l-MEPA li ippermettiet l-iżvilupp bla bir.

L-ilma tax-xita, flok fil-bir, la ma hemmx, jintefa’ fit-triq, jew agħar minn hekk fid-drenaġġ.

Il-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma ukoll għandha responsabbiltà għal dak li qed jiġri. Dan minħabba li l-Korporazzjoni ma tagħmilx il-verifiki sewwa qabel ma tawtorizza biex residenza tiġi imqabbda mas-sistema tad-drenaġġ pubbliku. Il-Korporazzjoni għandha l-obbligu li tivverifika li drenaġġ biss ser jintefa fis-sistema tad-drenaġġ. Minn spezzjon sewwa, malajr tista’ tinduna jekk il-katusi tal-ilma tax-xita humwiex imqabbda mad-drenaġġ ukoll.

Kieku l-MEPA u l–Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma jagħmlu xogħolhom sewwa, tispiċċa parti mhux żgħir mill-problema tal-ilma tax-xita fit-triq (waħdu jew imħallat bid-drenaġġ).

Sabu l-ilma ………… fuq Mars!

ilma fuq Mars.Independentilma fuq Mars.newsbook

 

L-aħbar li hemm possibilità tajba li fuq il-pjaneta Mars instab l-ilma nisslet ħafna interess fil-media. Anke f’Malta l-aħbar ingħata spazju għax bla dubju hi aħbar interessanti.

Dan l-interess huwa imnissel ukoll mill-fatt li f’ħafna pajjiżi madwar id-dinja hawn nuqqas ta’ ilma.

Min jaf, forsi, waqt li nieħdu pjaċir li fuq il-pjaneta Mars instab l-ilma nibdew nagħtu  ftit iktar każu napprezzaw l-ilma ftit iktar viċin tagħna.

Fil-passat riċenti f’Malta, bħala pajjiż,  ma tantx tajna każ tal-ilma. Il-kostruzzjoni tal-bjar fir-residenzi, biex fihom jinġabar l-ilma tax-xita, naqas sostanzjalment. F’ħafna każi, l-ilma tax-xita flok ma jinġabar fil-bjar intefa’ fit-toroq jew fid-drenaġġ.

L-għorrief fil-Parlament, flok ma insistew biex l-ilma tax-xita jibda jinġabar fil-bjar ħolqu proġett biex jiġbru dan l-ilma u jixħtuħ fil-baħar. Irmew l-ilma u miegħu irmew ukoll miljuni ta’ euros.

Aħjar nibdew nagħtu ftit każ tal-ilma ta’ madwarna flok l-ilma li x’aktarx hemm fuq Mars!

L-amnestija ………… il-bjar fid-djar u l-ilma fit-toroq

Msida flooding

 

L-istennija għal dak li l-amnestija tal-MEPA ser tindirizza tkompli.

Sadanittant il-bieraħ it-Tlieta kellna ħafna xita  f’Malta (madwar 30 millimetru) u bosta mit-toroq kien fihom kwantita’ kbira ta’ ilma tax-xita għal ħinijiet twal.

Ktibt diversi drabi fuq dan il-blog dwar x’inhu jikkawża dan kollu. Il-bjar li suppost jinbnew mar-residenzi tagħna ftit għadhom jinbnew. Hemm ukoll diversi bjar eżistenti li m’humiex jintużaw inkellha huma żgħar wisq.

Issa suppost li għal dawn l-aħħar 135 sena f’Malta kellna l-obbligu li jkollna bir ma kull binja biex f’dan il-bir jinġabar l-ilma tax-xita. Fit-triq imbagħad ikun jista’ jintefa iż-żejjed, jiġifieri l-overflow.

Minkejja dan l-obbligu, l-bjar fid-djar ftit għadek issibhom. Minflok ma jinġabar, l-ilma tax-xita jintefa kollu fit-triq inkella fid-drenaġġ. Għalhekk meta tagħmel ħafna xita t-toroq ifuru bl-ilma, f’xi każi bid-drenaġġ. Kien hemm drabi li rajna  d-drenaġġ ifur mit-tappieri.

Għal dan kollu, barra min jiżviluppa (kemm fuq skala żgħira kif ukoll skala kbira), hi responsabbli l-MEPA li konsistentement tagħlaq għajn waħda u qiesu ma ġara xejn.

X’ser tgħid l-amnestija dwar in-nuqqas tal-bjar fid-djar, fil-flats u l-maisonettes?

 

ara ukoll fuq dan il-blog:

 

The Cost of Incompetence. 17 ta’ Jannar 2009

Water : A Long-Term view. 23 ta’ Mejju 2010

The Accumulated Cost of Incompetence. 7 ta’ Settembru 2012

The risk of being ill-prepared

Hurricane Sandy swept through the states of New York and New Jersey making it clear to all that the forces of nature, amplified and stronger as a result of climate change, will spare no one.

The impacts of climate change are here for all to see. The destructive power of nature is being made incrementally worse by a warming climate. In 2012, it was Hurricane Sandy that wreaked havoc on New York and New Jersey. In 2005, it was Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans.

The havoc left behind in New York and New Jersey has been documented by the visual media. Less evident was the damage and misery in Haiti and neighbouring Caribbean countries.

Nature does not discriminate; it does not distinguish between rich and poor. Nor does it distinguish between developed and undeveloped countries. It sweeps away all that lies in its path.

Large areas of New York were without electricity. Over 40,000 New Yorkers were homeless as a result of Hurricane Sandy. This made the news.

However, disaster-stricken Haiti has been hit much harder. More than 200,000 Haitians already in makeshift homes as a result of the 2010 earthquake are now homeless.

A cholera outbreak in Haiti could be made worse by floods. Haiti, which is an agricultural economy, has also suffered a large loss of crops. This will lead to food shortages compounding the misery of an already impoverished nation.

Meteorologists have commented that more hurricanes are occurring late in the season, even after their “normal” season has ended. A 2008 study had pointed out that the Atlantic hurricane season seems to be starting earlier and lasting longer.

Normally, there are 11 named Atlantic storms. The past two years have seen 19 and 18 named storms. This year, with one month to go, there are already 19 named storms.

It is not only in the Atlantic that the climate is changing. Earlier this month, the Meteorological Office informed us that, in Malta, October 2012 was the sixth hottest month on record since 1922. With an increased frequency we too are witnessing more intense storms, which are playing havoc with an ill-prepared infrastructure.

The civil protection issues resulting from flooding will be hopefully addressed through storm-water relief projects substantially funded by the EU. While this will go a long way towards reducing damage to life and limb, it addresses the effects while leaving the causes of flooding largely unaddressed.

Malta’s climate change adaptation strategy, adopted some time ago, had pointed towards the issue of rainwater harvesting, which has not and still is not given due importance in new developments both those on a large scale as well as those on a much smaller scale.

The lack of application of rainwater harvesting measures through the construction of appropriately-sized water cisterns is an important contributor to the flooding of Malta’s roads and the overflowing public sewers whenever a storm comes our way. This occurs irrespective of the severity of the storm. Addressing this cause would go a long way towards reducing the volume of storm water that has to be contained to prevent it from causing damage.

By now it should be clear that there is no political will to address the issue as such a measure would entail taking action against developers (large and small) who did not provide rainwater harvesting facilities in their quest to increase profits (or reduce costs) in their land development projects. This has been the unfortunate practice for the past 50 years. Old habits die hard.

The expenses required to tackle a principal cause of the problem has been shifted from the developers onto the public purse, this including the EU funds being utilised. This expense has to make good for the accumulated (and accumulating) incompetence in rainwater management by focusing on the effects but simultaneously ignoring the causes.

Therefore, when one speaks on the devastating impacts of nature and climate change it should be realised that some of these impacts are being amplified as a result of the way in which successive governments have mismanaged this country’s resources.

The impacts of flooding are the ones which leave a lasting impression due to their detailed documentation by the media. There are, however, other impacts that are as important and in respect of which a public debate is conspicuously absent. I refer in particular to the impact of rising temperatures on agriculture and health.

Higher temperatures will slowly change our agriculture as the type of crops that can withstand higher temperatures are generally different from those which are currently prevalent. In addition, higher temperatures means that we will have some alien insects flying around, some of which are disease carriers.

Not discussing these issues does not mean that they will disappear. It only means that we are ill-prepared for the inevitable impacts and the necessary changes.

There is much to be done. So far, we have barely scratched the surface.

Published in The Times of Malta Saturday November 10, 2012