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News | Wednesday, 19 May 2010 Issue. 164

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Malta transposes EU’s Flood Directive

Malta has transposed the EU’s Floods Directive, which requires Member States to assess all water courses and coast lines which are at risk from flooding, to map the flood extent and quantify the assets and humans at risk in these areas and to take adequate measures to reduce this flood risk.
The directive also sets a roadmap through which every country has to first carry out a preliminary assessment by 2011 to identify coastal areas at risk of flooding, to draw up flood risk maps by 2013 and establish flood risk management plans focused on prevention, protection and preparedness by 2015.
A legal notice issued by the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs designates the Malta Resources Authority as the competent authority responsible for enforcing the directive in Malta, and sets of the cut off dates for implementing the directive.
The MRA will undertake a preliminary flood risk assessment by the end of 2011. The flood risk assessments shall not only be based on past experiences of flooding but will have to assess the expected impact of climate change.
The flood risk assessment will include maps of each water catchment district, a description of the floods that have occurred in the past and an assessment of the potential adverse consequences of future floods for human health, the environment, cultural heritage and economic activity.
On the basis of the preliminary flood risk assessment, the Resources Authority will have to identify those areas where a potential significant flood risk exists or might be considered likely to occur in the future.
By the end of 2013 Malta will have to prepare flood hazard maps and flood risk maps for these areas which are at risk.
And by the end of 2015 Flood risk management plans which address all aspects of flood risk management focusing on prevention, protection, preparedness, including flood forecasts and early warning systems will have to be ready. These plans will also promote sustainable land use practices, improvement of water retention as well as the controlled flooding of certain areas in the case of a flood event.

Scaled down storm water plan
Although Malta is now set to enforce the EU’s flood directive, doubts have recently surfaced on the effectiveness of Malta’s Storm Water Plan after the government axed a costly €438 million project to capture storm water by building an underground tunnel system.
This decision was slammed by consultants who conducted a strategic environmental impact assessment (SEA) on the project, arguing that storm water should be stored to alleviate pressure on the ground water aquifers.
The consultants claim that “the revised Storm Water Master Plan (SWMP) does not put forward an adequate plan for an effective infrastructure which conserves the groundwater aquifers whilst solving the problems associated with flood relief.”
According to the report, the revised SWMP fails to achieve adequate level of flood relief in the short and medium term as tangible results of the plan will not be expected to be realized before 20 years after the SWMP is implemented.
When replying to a parliamentary question on Monday Resources Minister George Pullicino confirmed that the project has been scaled down, following the results of a feasibility study conducted by Isreali consultancy Tahal.
“The studies have shown that the underground tunnel option to harvest rain water was not economically viable when compared to other solutions like the treatment of sewage for the use of agriculture and industry.”
The Israeli experts concluded that when the cost of the infrastructure required is taken in to account it would cost €80.31 to produce one cubic metre of water.
This sum does not include the actual cost of storing the water which would range between €1.77 and €5.87 depending on the amount pumped and the cost of treatment set to cost between an additional 5 cents per cubic metre for water used for landscaping and 30 cents per cubic metre for water used for agriculture.
The cost of distribution would cost €1 for every cubic metres of water.
This means that, excluding the infrastructural costs, harvesting one cubic metre would cost between €2.82 to €7.17. But when the infrastructural costs are taken in to account the cost would rise to between €87.
This would be more expensive than the €49 required to produce the same amount through desalinisation as stated in a parliamentary question in 2008 even if this amount did not take in consideration capital and depreciation costs.
According to Pullicino the scaled down version of the project will still harvest 680,000 cubic metres of storm water, which can be made available for irrigation.
But this is a fraction of the massive 5.5 to 8 million cubic metres which would have been made available by the original €438 million mega project which according to the SEA would have provided for 65% of agricultural needs.
But this sum of money did not even include the considerable cost of treating and polishing the stored water from contamination before it is made available for re-use.
Since the project is eligible for EU funds, the Maltese government will only have to fork out 15% of this sum. But choosing this option would mean that a significant part of Malta’s EU funding budget would be consumed by this mega project.



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