The Environmental Noise Directive (END) 2002/49/EC relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise, sets a common approach to the management of noise in order to avoid, prevent or reduce the harmful effects due to exposure of environmental noise. It is the main EU instrument to identify noise pollution levels and to trigger the necessary action through the compilation of strategic noise maps for major roads, railways, airports and agglomerations. Following the noise maps, noise action plans should be developed to prevent and reduce noise where necessary and preserve the noise climate where it is good.
The Directive is transposed separately in each Member State of the EU into local legislation. In Malta, the END is transposed through S.L. 549.37, the “Assessment and Management of Environmental Noise Regulations, 2004”, L.N. 193 of 2004. ERA is the competent authority under the environmental noise regulations.
The Directive applies to environmental noise to which humans are exposed; in particular built-up areas, in public parks or other quiet areas in an agglomeration, in quiet areas in open country, near schools, hospitals and other noise-sensitive buildings and areas; and in areas affected by noise from designated major roads, railways or aircraft transport sources as well as industrial sites. Hence, the strategic noise maps and noise action plans are to be drawn up for areas within the designated agglomerations affected by noise emitted by sources such as roads, industry and airports, or areas in the vicinity of major roads across the country. The results of the strategic noise maps allow us to identify and assess the number of people living in dwellings who are exposed to a particular noise level at their most exposed building façade.
The Directive does not cover workplace noise, neighbourhood noise, construction noise, entertainment noise, noise nuisance, fireworks noise, consumer product noise and noise transmission between dwellings.
Strategic Noise Maps
The purpose of strategic noise mapping is to:
- provide information to the public and decision makers on noise exposure locally, nationally and internationally;
- develop action plans for the purpose of managing noise exposure; and
- assist the European Commission in future development of European noise policy.
The END sets out specific information on the results of the strategic noise maps that are reported to the European Commission every five years. The third round of strategic noise maps has been compiled by external consultants on behalf of ERA. These noise maps have been developed for base year 2016 and cover all Arterial and Distributor roads (Major Roads with more than 3 million vehicle passages per annum) and all other Arterial, Distributor and Local Access Roads within Malta’s Noise Agglomeration. The Strategic Noise Mapping of industrial noise sources was undertaken for all IPPC licensed industrial sites (industrial sites of a certain capacity) within the Malta Noise Agglomeration. Noise maps were also compiled for the Malta International Airport as it was found to have an impact in terms of noise exposure on the Malta Noise agglomeration, even though it is located just outside the boundary of the agglomeration area.
The extent of the Noise agglomeration was delineated together with the R1 strategic noise mapping exercise, using the population data from National Statistics Office census, as well as land use and building extent datasets. The agglomeration definition was then used for the R2 strategic noise mapping of agglomeration roads, industry and aircraft, since at the time, the population within the agglomeration fell below the 250,000 threshold required for mapping under the first round.
The delineation for the agglomeration was not revised for the third round and was retained for the current reporting round due to the fact that there were no significant changes to the extent of the urbanised area to warrant a re-delineation of the agglomeration. The total area of the R3 agglomeration is 54.1 km2, the same as in R2, whilst the total R3 population within the agglomeration is 277,600, compared to 270,000 for R2.
A major road is defined as a regional, national or international road, designated by the competent authority, which has more than three million vehicle passages a year.
The updates for the R3 mapping include the addition of roads newly constructed or altered since the R2 mapping, and the revision of traffic flow data in line with the Transport Malta transport model or actual traffic counts. From this updated inventory, it was possible to identify sections of road with an annual flow above 3 million vehicles, with an annual average daily traffic flow great than 8,219, as major roads.
The total length of R3 major roads is 293.4 km, compared with 292 km mapped as R2 major roads.
No. of links
Total length of links (km)
|Major roads > 3 M veh/yr||
|Non-major < 3 M veh/yr||
Population Exposure Assessment
Set out below are summary tables estimating the population exposure for Round 3 Major Roads, total area exposed and number of dwellings that lie within the 5dB noise level contour band for Lden and Lnight for major roads in the Maltese Islands.
|Noise Scenario||Noise Category (dB)||R3 Population||Area (km2)||R3 Dwellings|
|Noise Scenario||Noise Category||R3 Population (outside agglomerations)||R3 Population (inside agglomerations)||R3 Population (including agglomerations)|
|Note: Due to rounding of underlying results to nearest 100, the values in the table may not always add up as expected.|
The table below shows the results of the population exposure analysis (estimated number of people rounded to hundreds) living in dwellings that are exposed to noise in 5dB bands for all relevant roads inside the agglomeration for Round 3.
|Noise Scenario||Noise Category||R3 Population|
Noise Action Plan
The following actions are to be implemented in stages within each Member State:
- Determine the exposure to environmental noise, through noise mapping, by common methods of assessment;
- Ensure that information on environmental noise and its effects is made available to the public;
- Adopt action plans, based upon noise-mapping results, with a view to preventing and reducing environmental noise where necessary and particularly where exposure levels can induce harmful effects on human health and to preserve environmental noise quality where it is good.
ERA has published the third round Noise Action Plans (NAP) for public consultation from 8th November 2022 till 19th December 2022. The NAP provides an overview of the requirements and obligations of the regulations, present a summary of the results of the strategic noise maps and illustrate actions which responsible authorities intend to take in the coming five years. The NAP is designed to address the management of environmental noise affecting Malta from transport noise including road and air, together with industrial noise as well as Major Roads across the Maltese Islands.
The main target is to have an integrated noise management approach, which is tackled in a twofold manner:
a) Protection of the future noise climate – i.e. areas where we need to preserve, and
b) Reduction of the existing noise climate where necessary, – i.e. areas where we need to reduce noise.
The implementation of the plan involves a staged approach in assessing the existing levels of environmental noise in Malta. This is to be achieved by assessing the strategic noise maps with a view of identifying potential locations for actions using a prioritisation exercise. The next step entails a confirmation of the noise levels originally assessed by the strategic noise maps, to which the population in the areas which are being addressed are exposed to. Eventually, this step will lead to a review of possible mitigation actions which will be subjected to a cost-benefit analysis.