There has been something different about this summer, compared to the last one. At least two things stick out.
EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella has spoken out on the “hidden health threat” of noise, and the Noise Abatement Society of Malta has proposed measures to the Environment Minister.
Yet Malta is getting louder and more crowded from one summer to the next.
Fireworks were set to music as in previous years at a string of festas but this year a new noise source has settled in. Builders are laying concrete to their own soundtrack. More on that later.
As development marches on, the night chirrup of crickets is becoming ever fainter and the impunity of caravan owners knows no bounds.
Caravans (towed) and motor-homes (licensed self-drive) are invading public coastal spaces like never before. The seaside gypsies are making themselves at home at various spots along the Maltese shoreline with the attendant paraphernalia – water tanks, generators and often dubious sanitary arrangements.
Some years ago, an expat owner living temporarily in a motorhome in Malta described on an online forum how they handled the sanitation problem:
“We had our own… bathroom facilities which of course occasionally required emptying and that was not so easy to do as we had to raise a manhole without blocking the street.”
More recently another expat, asking for advice on living in a caravan instead of renting an apartment on the island, received a discouraging reply:
“Are you thinking of squatting on some coastal area like Armier Bay? You will have problems with the locals as they all have their reserved spots for the summer and won’t be happy to see foreign intruders.”
…this year a new noise source has settled in. Builders are laying concrete to their own soundtrack
The question of whether a camper van can be given as an address for a local residence card was also bandied about.
Touring Club Malta was founded in 1984 to assist campers and caravans visiting Malta on such queries. A motor-home owner and club member points out that it is illegal to leave a parked caravan which is not hooked up to a vehicle anywhere. When anyone camping out in a roadside motor-home is challenged by the authorities their reasoning goes like this:
“As soon as we are told to remove our vehicles, all we have to do is start the engine and park someplace else.”
It hasn’t been this easy in the rest of Europe. In 2013 holiday gypsies parked 14 caravans in a hospital car park in France. The tow-horses of the “travelling community” included a Mercedes, a BMW and a Volkswagen.
In 2016 a group of over one hundred “posh” travellers from France, Spain, Norway and Sweden parked their shiny vehicles on open ground in a residential area in Sheffield. That summer a premiere league cricket match in Derby had to be cancelled when caravans invaded the ground and hung out their washing.
The police were called to try and move the 40 travellers on. At first they refused to budge then later hinted that they might consider moving if someone would buy them ferry tickets to Ireland.
The general consensus on the comments board of the local newspaper reporting the story was that a “politically correct, pathetically policed, permissively governed Britain” was “getting out of hand.” Malta’s own Touring Club is keen on seeing more investment put into stop-overs for motorhomes “in order to attract more tourists”.
Aside from finding suitable areas without trampling on ordinary people’s rights to public space, the Maltese authorities may want to first clamp down on the many infringements by caravan campers on our coasts.
One observer has asked why caravan owners had to take up so much space when almost everyone else in Malta was just using an umbrella.
“Not everyone owns an umbrella,” came the online retort.
Now, back to the soundtrack on a growing number of building sites.
The offensive on our ears from the jack hammers, bulldozers, trucks, cranes and cement pumps is now being topped up with auxiliary noise.
The latest trend is for workers to have their own sound system on site, as if it were not enough for our lungs to be assailed by diesel fumes from machinery operated at development plots.
A catalogue of musical genres – deep house, rap and, rather appropriately, grime – are pumped out at full volume in order to be audible to workers above the background cacophony.
Soon the rains will come, ghetto blasters will go under cover, caravans will for the most part disperse and all will be forgotten – until next year.
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