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    Building site with cranes

    Malta’s beauty is truly something to behold. Who can think of anything more relaxing after a hard day’s work than a quick jog or cycle around the village? (Only me? That’s OK, I guess) Perhaps a leisurely stroll along the Sliema – St. Julian’s seafront is more appealing to you if you prefer taking it easy. Our island may be tiny, but it offers an abundance with regards to natural splendors – and as those are the things that reap in visitors year after year, it is only right that we should look after them.

    You take out your phone to take a picture, because you’ve enjoyed unwinding this evening and want to remember it. The sky is a gorgeous blend of pink and peach, and not a cloud in the heavens on this fine summer’s night. Wait, what’s that in the distance as you attempt to get a shot of the horizon? Oh…another crane.

    Construction and all that comes with it seem to have become commonplace in Malta these days. You may have come across the ‘count the crane’ game on social media, or perhaps even seen a picture of the Maltese flag with a crane in place of our George cross. Whilst both intend on passing off as humorous (the latter borderline-blasphemous, to some), the situation regarding the construction explosion – and all that comes with it – crossed over from funny to frustrating a while ago.

    Think about how often we’ve encountered a traffic block thanks to obstructions as a result of some construction work happening, or the number of times parking places have been blocked by cranes instead of cars. Whilst some works, such as road-widening works on arterial roads, have had a positive impact over time (even if they did make commuting Hell for a while…), let’s stop pretending that narrow roads on our island are the main contributors to congestion when an average of 45 new cars licences are issued every day on our 316 km2 island.

    And with more cars, comes more exhaust and pollution…and with that, a myriad of health issues. As of May 2019, Malta is officially home to over 26-thousand chronic asthma sufferers…and counting. Roughly five new cases of the condition are diagnosed every day, and in the first four months of this year alone, 105 people have died as a result of asthma complications.

    Showing the amount of dust due to construction
    With so much construction going on, the amount of fine dust particles polluting our air is out of control

    If you personally do not have to live with asthma, here’s a brief description of what it feels like; imagine breathing through a straw and frequently needing to rely on medication to breathe like a regular, non-asthmatic person (and being seriously envious of their perfect breathing capabilities). You also need to be careful not to overdo it when exercising, and even something as simple as catching a cold can seriously exasperate things. Needless to say, living with asthma isn’t much fun, especially not in a super-humid country overrun by cars, and where the biggest helpers in providing us with clean, fresh oxygen (that’s a tree, in case that wasn’t obvious) are being chopped down on a regular basis for the purpose of progress.

    Again, as times have progressed, certain works are necessary, and at times trees become the unfortunate casualties of such jobs. However, surely ensuring that we have viable oxygen to breathe which isn’t making us ill is also crucial? And to be frank, some roadworks have only become necessary in order to accommodate the ridiculous number of cars on our roads. The World Health Organisation claims that around one in twelve persons living in the EU suffers from asthma; it’s high time that we start tackling one of the main contributors to this chronic disease, rather than making bothersome and, in my opinion, at-times-avoidable works to keep enabling the concerning situation.

    On a more positive note, change is happening, and more people are starting to give priority to these issues. The environmental protest held back in July, which saw about 1000 persons young and old brave the heat to voice their concerns, was an encouraging start – but we’re going to need a lot more than that to get people to start giving a toss about our environment. If this is an issue close to your heart, get yourselves to a protest next time round – remember, strength in numbers. There needs to be a sense of urgency with regards to this issue, because urgent is exactly what it is. It’s all well and good to voice your concerns over Facebook, but we seriously need to start walking the walk here if we want to see change in this regard.

    To show how the earth will look if we don't change
    If we continue to ignore the problems, how will the future look?

    The environment belongs to us all, and we should all reflect and think of how we can each personally better care for it. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.

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