Another building collapse

Crying crocodile tears for the dead workman of the Kordin incident will not gain Graffitti any political kudos. So they just shut up their mouth

The sudden building collapse in Kordin last week is probably the result of several factors and inadequacies that together brought about the nasty result.

The disaster reminds me of investigators inquiring into airplane crashes. They often end up by finding that the cause of a plane crash is not just one circumstance but a combination of events that together lead to a disaster. Often, just one error would not have caused the incident but the crash is the result of a combination of mistakes.

Since the Kordin tragic incident ocurred, I have heard many different explanations about what actually happened. Some make sense, others do not. I confess that I do not know anything about what caused the Kordin accident but my inner feeling tells me that the incident was caused by a combination of different circumstances rather than the direct result of one inadequacy. My feelings are just speculation, of course.

Whatever it is, the appropriate authorities have to look beyond what happened and how it happened. They also have to look into why such incidents are increasing. Foreign workers who have no knowledge in Maltese building techniques are also a source of problems. Even the experienced ones do not understand the consequences of the stubborn ‘Maltese way’ of sticking to load-bearing walls in buildings that are not small residences.

The need for a contractor’s register and licensing procedures for individuals or companies who enter into the construction business has long been felt. Progress on this area has stalled. I suspect that debarring idiots from taking on construction jobs – including government contracts – does not fit into the ‘Malta taghna lkoll’ philosophy!

When I was still a minister, many moons ago, there was an issue with Maltese architects having foreign qualfications that were not given a warrant. Eventually the issue was settled by the candidates having to sit for exams in subjects that they had not pursued to obtain their foreign degree. Following that, the first version of the Periti Act was enacted.

I remember that on one particular case, Alfred Sant, then leader of the Opposition, in a speech in Parliament alleged that the strict application of the warrant procedures was creating a ‘club’ for the benefit of the few. I had to rebutt by saying the obvious: warranting rules were an ‘insurance’ of sorts, protecting the citizen from the work of quacks not a means of conferring imaginary privileges on whomever gets a warrant. I wonder whether he ever got the message, because when he became Prime Minister he made short shrift of the rules to accommodate a particular person.

Many moons later and after so many other incidents, the authorities set up the Building Construction Authority (BCA) and obliged architects to submit details regarding construction methods to be used in practically all projects. Again these reforms – with which I agree – were mostly meant to protect third party properties touching a building site. The project in Kordin consisted of a free-standing building and the applicant was obviously not obliged to indicate how the proposed works will also avoid negative effects on abutting third party properties, since there are none of these.

Even so, according to Shift News – a news portal – work in Kordin was proceeding without the necessary clearance from the BCA and the subsequent submission to the Planning Authority of the Commencement Notice.

I understand the frustration of many who short-sightedly consider such procedures to be unnecessary bureaucracy since they practically make no distinction between miniscule projects and enormous developments. But ignoring these ‘one size fits all’ procedures can lead to big problems in particular circumstances.

Moreover, we are still in a situation where the lack of knowledge of even the basic principles of building construction does not deter anyone from declaring himself to be a building contractor, buy some equipment and take on building contracts. Soon some of these self-apointed ‘experts’ will start telling their clients that some structure is overdesigned by the architect in charge, rather than shuitting up their mouth and accept the specifications made by who is ultimately legally responsible for the stability of the building.

It seems that everything we do in Malta is done in an amatuerish way. No surprise here, of course.

Astonishingly, the reaction of several NGOs to the tragic event at Kordin was dead silence. Graffitti is not organising a rally to recall the death of the young man in the incident, nor to drive home that one or two of the surviving injured workmen are going to be maimed for life.

This silence is no big surprise for me. The circumstances of the Kordin incident do not fit into the political narrative of these NGOs. There was no clear ‘us and them’ message to be gained from the incident.

Many ‘environmental’ NGOs are against development of further residential buildings accusing developers of being greedy business men ruining Malta’s character. Greed is a common negative human trait exhibited by many – not just developers. So is envy, of course. Moreover, ill-concieved, short-sighted Planning Authority decisions have given credence to this narrtaive.

But crying crocodile tears for the dead workman of the Kordin incident will not gain Graffitti any political kudos. So they just shut up their mouth.

Bottom of the list

A new study has ranked Europe’s 30 most populous countries on their environmental shopping habits. From mending old clothes for re-use to buying local produce, there are plenty of ways to shop sustainably.

The study considered a country’s sustainable development goals (SDG) ranking, a United Nations-issued score analysing national performance on development goals like climate action and renewable energy promotion.

Researchers ranked countries on a number of different parameters including food waste, recycling rates and consumption footprint – the size of the area needed to produce the materials a country consumes, combined with the area needed to absorb its subsequent waste.

Overall Finland ranked in the top spot while at the bottom of the list, Malta ranked as the worst country for sustainable shopping.

Finland reduced its consumption footprint by more than a fifth between 2010 and 2020, while Malta increased its consumption footprint by 10.5 per cent in the same time span.

This is yet another consequence of the artificial increase in Malta’s population in the mentioned period.