Updated 11.23am - Adds PD statement
Alarm bells are ringing in the building industry after the price of dumping construction waste doubled last week, contrary to an agreement the government had reached with developers.
The decision has sent ripples of concern through the industry over a potential slump if the situation remains unchanged.
Only two quarries are receiving construction waste at present, one at Għar Lapsi outside Siġġiewi, and the other in Mqabba. Last week, their operators decided to raise their prices from €8 to €15 per tonne.
The unilateral decision breached an agreement reached last February between the Malta Developers Association (MDA) and the government.
The government had agreed to provide incentives to the quarry owners to keep the price stable at €8 per tonne for at least another year and a half. The waste comes mainly in the form of excavated earth and rubble from demolition.
However, six months down the line, the industry is suddenly faced with a dramatic rise in costs, with builders now being forced to pay nearly double the agreed price to get rid of their waste.
Times of Malta asked Environment Minister José Herrera, who had announced the February agreement, whether the government intends intervening due to the breach of agreement, but he had not replied by the time of going to print.
'Government must show its teeth'
The MDA, whose members are already feeling the pinch of a general slowdown, is demanding answers on the way forward.
When contacted MDA president Sandro Chetcuti sounded the alarm: “The minister promised to find a solution several times to keep the price per tonne stable.
“Unfortunately, it seems that the technical people around him are not fully aware of the enormity of the problem and neither are they aware of the urgency of solving this issue.”
Asked what he thought had to be done to solve the impasse, Mr Chetcuti did not mince his words. “The government must show its teeth,” he said.
“Decisions need to be taken by the policy makers. We are aware that even the Prime Minister is following this issue and we are expecting decisions to be taken.”
Industry sources said a long-term solution needed to be found if the country is to avoid a construction slump, with possible ripple effects on the economy.
The Għar Lapsi quarry, which started receiving waste only last year, is nearly full, with no other facility ready to take waste despite a few other permits being in hand. Some quarries are still providing stone while the owners of others may not consider the operation that receiving waste entails to be viable.
The industry is also piling pressure on the government to take a decision on whether to allow land reclamation. This, according to the industry, would solve the problem for a number of years.
However, the decision could have political consequences as dumping at sea is opposed by environmentalists.
Industry sources also fear that the current status-quo and government’s “lack of direction” might result in an increase in illegal dumping, with worse consequences for the environment.
PD calls for Budget measures to address the issue
In a statement the Democratic Party denounced the fact that Malta still lacked a strategy on construction sustainability despite having a Sustainable Development Strategy up to 2050. In this respect it called for measures in the forthcoming Budget.
While noting that it had been calling on the government a to draft a long-term strategy for over a year, it added that land reclamation was not a solution of a cyclical economy.
“There are only 16 potential quarries that can be possibly refilled with construction waste. The long-term solution lies in regulating the way earth excavation and demolishing of building is performed,” stated Timothy Alden.
The PD said that all building material and products could be reused in another form to reduce waste.
“It is useless having lobbyist Malta Developers Association crying wolf when by means of construction sustainability raw material can be conserved by re-use and recyclability. In so doing we will also reduce energy and CO2-emissions for production, manufacturing and reduction of waste,” stated Hon Godfrey Farrugia.
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