LIVING IN A FOOL’S PARADISE

Sitting at the water’s edge, I cradle a glass of chilled rosé wine in the palm of my hand. The sun shines down from a cloudless sky. A gentle breeze blows softly, cooling the warm air as I listen to the gentle lap of waves against the shore. On the horizon, a solitary sailing boat skims lazily across the sea. This is one of my favourite spots, and it’s exactly my idea of a little bit of heaven.

But no sooner have I made myself more comfortable and opened my book at the marked page than the peace and tranquillity of the moment is shattered by noise coming from a mechanical digger on one of the many construction sites in the neighbourhood. A noise that has become all too familiar and frequent. Just like that of the jackhammer.

We’ve all experienced the joys of living in a building contractor’s paradise where we wake up to continuous vibrations from drilling and breathe the clouds of dust, trailing after heavy trucks with building materials. Where roads are closed to accommodate the works, and temporary diversions cause traffic jams. Where impatient drivers blast their horns in protest because they have been brought to a standstill, adding to the cacophony of noise that never subsides.

I gaze steadily at the skyline across the bay. It is dotted with towering cranes. A stark reminder that our legislators have sold their collective soul to greedy developers. It seems that the members of this powerful construction lobby have been given carte blanche to continue to uglify our towns with skyscraping monstrosities that are totally out of character.

It’s no wonder that a building project is every Maltese person’s worst nightmare. All we are really doing is causing more inconvenience for each other. But do those in high places even care? New development, whether for housing or offices, will produce more car owners than parking spaces. It will also affect population trends in certain areas.

Landscaping and green open spaces form an intrinsic part in creating a liveable environment, but there seems to be no serious commitment on the part of the authorities to set aside land for outdoor recreation that will breathe new life into built-up urban areas. My guess is that the only open spaces we are ever going to see in our towns are fenced-off demolition sites of buildings that have been torn down to make way for new ones.

Whoever came up with the brainwave for the Dubai-isation of this tiny island nation on the pretext of economic progress is advocating environmental regress. Unrestricted development will spread throughout the country and the resulting domino effect will be irreversible. Soon, we shall be buried under layers of concrete. Anybody who thinks otherwise is living in a fool’s paradise.

And if this is their idea of heaven, then I’d rather be downstairs with the sinners!