Athens trash woes come to a head

The sickly odor of slowly putrefying rubbish rose again to plague the streets of Athens yesterday as municipal authorities controlling the capital’s only landfill carried out their threat to allow only a tenth of the city’s daily garbage output to be disposed of in the Ano Liosia dump. In what is seen as a bid to pressure the government to implement promises of creating new landfills in other parts of Attica, the Ano Liosia municipal council has vowed to take in only the maximum legal limit – as set out in the official contracts and operating permit governing the Ano Liosia dump – of 500 tons of rubbish a day. Until now, despite agreements on how the landfill was to function, some 5,000 tons have been sent to Ano Liosia on a daily basis. The dump is already close to capacity, and new waste disposal sites are urgently needed ahead of the 2004 Olympics. The government said there was no excuse for the municipal authorities’ decision, and implied it could take legal action. «[The city’s] 4.5 million residents cannot be held hostage to unjustifiable reactions, and especially on such a major public health issue,» government spokesman Christos Protopappas said in a statement. «In any case, the government will proceed with determination and, naturally, will not accept any illegal acts.» The Athens city council yesterday appealed to regional authorities to take action to ensure that the landfill becomes fully operational again. But Ano Liosia Mayor Nikos Papadimas said the restrictions, which came into effect yesterday morning, will remain in place until the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Ministry commits itself to where, and by when, new landfills will be created. Naturally, nobody is keen to take in the capital’s rubbish. Regional authorities in western Attica say they will accept no new landfill in the area, which they say has, for decades, been the only outlying area to accommodate the city’s entire garbage output. Local authorities in eastern Attica have also refused to help out. The government says it will circumvent reactions by passing legislation after the Easter holidays to designate where new landfills are to be set up.