20 kilometres of underground tunnel helped Malta manage its flooding problems

How EU funds tackled Malta’s storm water challenge

Inclement weather is certainly not an event usually associated with Malta, a sun-kissed Mediterranean country with very few days of bad weather throughout the year. However, storms do hit the islands sometimes, and when they do, it is not a pleasant experience.

Due to Malta’s overbuilt environment, dense traffic and small road network, storms may cause severe flooding problems, in rare occasions, even deadly. Flooding has been a perennial problem to which most of the population has almost resigned to accepting as a reality that we have to live with.

Finally, in 2010, a €40 million project, through ERDF funds, was initiated to tackle this ongoing problem. Based on the conclusions of a Storm Water Master Plan, prepared years earlier, various areas on the island were identified as being potential flooding areas that needed attention. The aim was to build a new system of infrastructure which could divert and better direct the course of storm water.

The chosen intervention included the building of kilometres of tunnels, under the surface of roads, from where storm water could still pass, while the overhead roads remain as free as possible from water.

The five-year project was split in various phases. The largest part was the building of an 11-kilometre underground tunnel between Birkirkara and Ta’ Xbiex, one of the areas mostly hit when a severe storm strike.

Dug several tens of metres under the road network and some seven metres wide, the tunnel was connected to a system of new culverts along the way. As part of the project, and with the intention of saving some of the storm water from ending up wasted in the sea, large reservoirs were built along the way, storing millions of cubic metres of water.

This was later used either for irrigation systems or to re-boost the aquifer in many low-lying areas.

Other important stages of the project consisted of identical infrastructure built along other flood-prone areas of the island, including the Rabat-Zebbug route, a stretch between Qormi and Marsa, and areas in Zabbar and Marsascala, the worst hit areas in the south of the island.

In all, throughout the five-year project, more than 20 kilometres of tunnels were dug. New management systems were also introduced, with the new system maintained on a regular basis to make sure that when a storm arrives, the new infrastructure is prepared to take it.

Through this much needed project, storm water nowadays flows much better than it used to and with less hazard to drivers and pedestrians which happen to be on the road at the time, a tangible example of the difference that Cohesion funds made to our lives.

This article is part of the OurEU.mt campaign, which is being managed by CiConsulta's ComuniqEU, with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of CiConsulta and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.