Ministry trying to avert more trouble

Legal experts at the Environment and Public Works Ministry have assumed battle stations in anticipation of tomorrow’s ruling. The ministry is to support the establishment of three new XYTAs in Attica, claiming not only the legality of their choice of sites, but citing the potential resulting stalemate. If the Council of State rejects the sites, the state will be forced to start from scratch. The truth is that the current ministry leadership is only partly responsible for the situation it is having to deal with. Omissions and compromise by Minister Giorgos Souflias’s two predecessors have, it is generally agreed, made the problem worse. Nevertheless, the «new» minister appears to have been trapped by developments. Given that on issues related to the environment, Greek politicians have shown that they act only under pressure or as a result of threats, the real action is no longer in Ano Liosia (where margin for coercion is limited and not acceptable to local opinion) but in Brussels. For even if a XYTA enjoys official permission and social consensus, repeated dumping will mean that eventually it will have to close. At the same time, Greece’s conventional obligations remain and, as usual, are dealt with at the 11th hour only to avert fines and not as a way of creating a better future. According to those obligations, Greece will have to either close or improve all the uncontrolled landfill sites by 2007. It will have to be reusing 60 percent and recycling 55-80 percent of its packaging by 2011, reducing its biodegradable urban waste destined for landfills by 25 percent by 2010, and setting up programs for the alternative management of particular kinds of waste. For all the above, very little has been done. Efforts in all these areas have begun but have been half-hearted. Yet the Greek state, local authorities, all kinds of private waste managers and naturally people themselves must realize that the age of the garbage dump is over once and for all.