Perched high above most of the rest of the island, Rabat overlooks the fields of golden wheat as the Maltese summer is steadily on the way. Rabat is the suburb of the island’s old capital city Mdina and a proud locality with a bubbling community of its own.

Originally, Rabat formed part of the fortified city Mdina which the Romans called Melite. The Arabs then separated the two, to be better able to defend the capital, and the Knights of St John gave Mdina the iconic palaces it has today.

But while Mdina lives up to its nickname as the Silent City, this couldn’t be farther from the truth in Rabat. Bringing together a stunning historical centre, residential districts, agricultural expanses, a few secluded hamlets and breath-taking views for good measure, Rabat is the largest locality by geography in the Maltese archipelago.

In fact Rabat is home to some 11,500 persons, mainly situated in the built-up urban area.

“…and how do you communicate with all of them?” asks me Sandro Craus, Mayor of Rabat who I met at the Local Council offices. “We are very blessed to have a very healthy demographic mix of residents, from the veteran members of our community to beautiful young families who keep us alive and wanting to do more to make their lives better.”

“That is why we embarked on a series of projects aimed at putting sustainability at the forefront of our mission. Because we truly believe that in this day and age, on an island where energy is an immensely valued resource, we must be thoughtful of every watt we use and how we use it” the Mayor explains to me.

“It starts with the tiniest of things” he smiles. “At first, when I used to ride my e-bike into centre, the residents would snigger a bit. I don’t think they had ever seen a cycling Mayor before! But today it has become a normal site, and perhaps my determination may be inspiring others to leave their car parked, and take an alternative form of transport …at least to the city centre” Sandro explains to me.

The Local Council has been very active on this front. In the past years in fact, it has embarked on a number of multi-phase projects aimed at bringing sustainability to the fore, while respecting the historical and cultural fibre of the locality.

“We started with the restoration of two beautiful street chandeliers which were installed in the mid-20th Century in the locality’s main square right in front of the Basilica dedicated to St Paul the Apostle. The two massive structures were designed by a Rabat designer, so you will understand that they have a special place in our hearts – so we decided to give them a proper respectful restoration, while we upgraded their lighting infrastructure which now functions on efficient LED technology” he explains.

“Then we went ahead to design and commission new lighting fixtures to replace a true cacophony of lighting lamps, some of which pre-dated anyone of us and which had become inefficient and unsightly. It’s the cycle of life I guess, they served their purpose valiantly for many years, it was time to replace them with lampposts which would respect the historical surroundings they were installed in, while functioning efficiently and sustainably” the Mayor noted.

But the project was not limited to the Rabat main square. The whole street lighting revamp was spread across town in all the pretty town-house-lined streets, as well. From the zone overlooking the old capital Mdina, to the St Paul area, the Rabat Local Council installed some 240 lighting fixtures.

“This wasn’t enough either!” Sandro warns me, as he explained how in collaboration with the Energy and Water Agency (EWA), the Rabat Local Council saw fit to improve sustainability on another level too.

“I couldn’t accept how we would switch on our streetlights at 8 o’ clock in the evening and then switch them off again at 6 o’ clock in the morning, for ten hours straight, when most of us would be asleep and the streets empty. Of course, proper street lighting remains very important, but in 2022 we believe that we have the technology to address this waste” Sandro tells me. 

“We started researching the matter, and found dimming technology that would suit our needs like a glove. So very soon we will be launching this project which is being supported financially by EWA that will see our streets dim in brightness by 30% at midnight and a further 20% at 2am. This means that we will be saving the grid 50% of the energy consumption for roughly four hours, and another 30% for another two” Sandro explains.

And the collaboration with EWA goes further. In fact, with support from the government agency, the Local Council is in advanced preparation stages to embark on a major project, this time in another square, in front of the Dominican Church and priory, aimed at water conservation.

“Rabat, famously is very rich in water. We can’t accept a situation where most of this precious resource goes to waste” the Mayor says. “That is why we are going to replace the existing paving of all the large square with a newly developed permeable material which allows the water to seep through it and go directly into the depleted water-table. This will be a case-study for the country to see how we can scale-up this initiative for pavements and other public areas” Sandro notes.

The Local Council, which is currently operating from a temporary address, is currently renovating its offices which are situated in the urban core. “Throughout the project we are also keeping sustainability in mind here as well. With this project which will also include a roof-garden open to the public, we want to send a strong message in favour of sustainability, not only to other Local Councils but also to our beloved residents. We want to show them that funds are available on so many sustainability initiatives. This is possible, and it can be done” Mayor Craus concludes.


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