NEWS

Still in the works, 10 years on

The construction of waste processing plants around the country is coming up against obstacles such as petty local interests, the great Greek bureaucratic machine and personal differences between locals. Meanwhile, nearly two in three of the existing plants are either functioning at below capacity or not at all. The choice of a site for such a plant usually depends not on technical or environmental studies but on the people whose properties are to be expropriated or whose interests are to be affected. In smaller communities, where everyone knows everyone else, including the local officials, «blood lines» are obviously very strong. Akrata, on the northern coast of the Peloponnese on the Gulf of Corinth, has seen major tourism and housing development since the early 1980s, and the fate of its waste processing plant is indicative of the situation in many parts of the country. Plans were made for a plant in 1992. A study by a private firm indicated that the best place was on the right-hand side of the Krathi River. The Environment and Public Works Ministry gave its provisional approval and the municipal council decided to buy 0.70 hectares in the area. In August 1996, the ministry approved the environmental conditions and 2.5 billion drachmas (7.3 million euros) were made available from the Second Community Support Framework. Yet the plant was never constructed. But in August 1994 a group of local residents had taken recourse to the Council of State. According to sources, these people had property or other interests nearby the site, and stopped the signing of the contract. It took another four years for the Council of State to reject their appeal. However, the deadlines for drawing on European Union funds had expired. The story of Akrata’s waste plant is not over; it has continued amid disputes between local officials, a number of appeals and conflicting decisions by Achaia prefecture’s technical services who should have ruled on the siting of the unit. In fact, the prefecture did issue a ruling on the boundaries of the riverbed so that the unit could be built. The problem is that it ruled in favor of the site in 1999 and then against the same site in 2003. As a result, the plant is still on the drawing board, but it may be sited in another area; alternatively, waste may be transported by tanker truck to the processing plant in Aigion. For the time being, untreated sewage is being dumped in holes in the ground, the latest of which was dug in August after the previous ones overflowed.