NEWS

Mount Hymettus at risk of being buried by trash

On the wooded hillside of Mt Hymettus above Ano Glyfada, south of Athens, the houses thin out as one reaches the first forest road, where broken metal gates hang on their hinges, an image in stark contrast to the beauty of the landscape dotted with tall pine trees, wildflowers and aromatic thyme. Just a few meters inside the gates are the first piles of refuse; a little further on, in the midst of a sunny clearing, is a second pile, next to an old sofa and a broken jacuzzi. The next corner in the road acts as a launch pad for the dumping of rubble. Similar images abound on many parts of this mountain that rises above northeast Athens, up behind the suburb of Ano Glyfada, in Papagou behind the Athens Water Company (EYDAP) buildings and not far from a makeshift motocross track, in Koropi on the road up to Aghia Eleoussa, around Vyronas and in the municipalities of Hymettus and Kaisariani. The mountain is under attack from all sides, including the 15 surrounding municipalities. Fires, land-grabbing and utter neglect are gradually turning it into a massive landfill for the dumping of construction rubble and large unwanted objects of all kinds. Many factors are to blame – not only the people who dump the waste, but local authorities and the lack of comprehensive legislation to manage the waste (laws have been passed in accordance with European Union regulations but have not been put into effect). Then there is the complete absence of any kind of patrols of the mountain, particularly in the winter months. Fines «What happens on Mt Hymettus is no different than what is happening in every open space in Attica,» said Dimitris Kioukis, head of the Private Trucks and Earthmoving Equipment Owners’ Association. «At night, Gypsies as well as private firms take their trucks up there and dump rubbish wherever they like. Sometimes they are caught and are fined. On other occasions, however, the forest ranger is given a little ‘present’ to turn a blind eye.» Hymettus comes under the jurisdiction of the Pendeli forestry service. Head ranger Dimitris Dinokas categorically rejects accusations that rangers accept bribes. «If that is happening, people would do better to bring proper charges,» he told Kathimerini. «In any case, everyone does what they want in practice. The bitter truth is that nowhere in Greece is there a properly organized forest ranger service. In Koropi and Aghia Paraskevi, which come under our jurisdiction, there are only two or three people to carry out patrols, and only during office hours on weekdays. Any extra patrols are up to the good will of the rangers themselves. But there can be no proper monitoring under such conditions.» Pendeli’s forestry service, helped by police, has often caught violators in the act. Experienced forest rangers told Kathimerini that people can only be arrested if caught at the very moment they are dumping the refuse. If it is still on the truck, they are justified in claiming that they were «out for a drive» or had «got lost.» Charges Suits have been lodged at the forestry service on the basis of charges brought by local residents against truck owners, both private and municipal. Strangely enough, some of these municipalities are those of Voula, Glyfada and Vyronas, all members of the inter-municipal Association for the Protection and Development of Hymettus.