NGOs call for suspension of excavation works; Developers’ lobby says it’s ready to discuss

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Various non-governmental organisations have called on the Environment Minister to suspended building site excavation amid the coronavirus pandemic while the developers’ lobby has pronounced itself in favour of a discussion which would restrict the hours during which excavation and demolition works can take place during the day.

In a joint statement, environmental NGOs said that construction work should be limited between 8.30am and 1pm during the pandemic. The NGOs said that excavation works should be suspended until further notice.

The Malta Developers Association, on the other hand, said that while it understood that ongoing works caused an inconvenience to the public who live next to construction sites, as they have been discouraged from leaving their houses unless it is necessary due to the coronavirus.

The developers’ lobby said that it was ready to discuss the situation with the relevant authorities and reduce the working hours for the construction industry. The lobby said that it had no problem in reaching an agreement on reduced hours as long as 16,000 employees working in the sector are adequately compensated for the loss of income. The MDA said that construction employees should benefit from the same schemes being drawn up for employees in other sectors in case their hours are reduced.

The eNGOs are arguing that it was unfair that the residents have to put up with the noise emission levels caused by excavation works and which can reach up to 110 decibels for eight hours a day. Apart from the noise emission, residents have to suffer from the air pollution.

The NGO statement was signed by Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Graffitti, Friends of the Earth (Malta), Ramblers Association, Isles of the Left, Malta Youth in Agriculture Foundation, the Noise Abatement Society Malta, Futur Ambjent Wieħed, Nature Trust Malta and BirdLife Malta. St Julian’s, Sliema, San Ġwann, Swieqi and Gżira mayors endorsed the statement.

Conflicting laws

The MDA noted that two laws which regulate the time when certain construction works can commence were in conflict.

The lobby said that although the direction given by the authorities to the industry during these past years was always that works can only start at 7am, a more recent law states that works which create noise can only start after 8am. The MDA took the initiative to direct its members to abide the latter.

Further the MDA said that it received reports that some individuals were commencing excavation and demolition works much earlier than the time permitted by law in some instances as early as 5am.

The MDA condemned these individuals as it called on the authorities and the government to strictly enforce the law.