Waste management dispute could sew the seeds for lasting reform

A ruling on the siting of three new urban waste treatment plants (XYTAs) in Attica (Fyli, Keratea, Grammatiko) is expected from the Council of State tomorrow, following the recent closure of the Ano Liosia site. Elected officials and residents once again have been held hostage – not only to the «garbage dump» but to an attitude to waste management that has proved to be a dead end, not only environmentally but legislatively and politically, resulting in the waste of tens of millions of euros. The breaking point has been reached on all sides – for those who live near the site, elected officials who have no solutions, the state that has to fall in line with European Union legislation by reducing the volume of waste, and municipalities elsewhere who won’t accept a site in their neighborhood. Yet despite the lack of regional planning, some feel this is a unique opportunity. Petros Philippou, head of the Local Union of Attica Municipalities (TEDKNA) told Kathimerini that this might be the right moment to redefine waste management. «Europe’s goal is to have up to 80 percent of waste recycled and only about 20 percent sent to a controlled landfill,» he explained. Already, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis, a firm supporter of recycling, recently launched such a program and repeatedly affirms that Attica’s greatest problem is its garbage. «It is time to take a leap forward with legislative initiatives,» she has said. The first dead end was reached when the Vari, Koropi dump closed in 1977. «Since then… studies have been made repeatedly, protests recorded, politicians have gone back on their words, but the (Ano Liosia) landfill is still there; the methods used still the same,» said environmental engineer Stavros Iatrou, who is also the prefectural adviser for Eastern Attica. In 1979 the Interior Ministry commissioned a study aimed at seeking new sites. The working group set up by the Unified Association of Attica Municipalities (ESDKNA) recommended three sites, two in western Attica and one in the north. In 1984, it was decided to close down the landfill sites in Schistos and Ano Liosia. In 1986, ESDKNA asked for official approval for the suitability of a XYTA on Mt Parnitha and at Vari. In 1987, ESDKNA chose Trikerato in western Attica. In 1990, a group of Interior Ministry experts suggested setting up XYTA sites at Mandra and on the island of Evia, but came back with a counterproposal the next year for a site at Grammatiko, in eastern Attica. The eastern Attica prefect gave the go-ahead for both Grammatiko and also for Avlona. So, in 1991, the Schistos dump was closed and ESDKNA commissioned surveys for Grammatiko and Avlona, and began to search for a site in western Attica. Suggestions were also put forward for Varnava and Ritsona, in Viotia. New studies in 1992 indicated the best areas as being Ritsona and Varnava in the east, and Trikerato and Lakka Maskari in the west. The same year, the Environment and Public Works Ministry gave its preliminary approval to the Ritsona and Varnava plans. Things ground to a halt in 1994 when the Interior Ministry, the Environment and Public Works Ministry and TEDKNA abandoned Ritsona and appeared to ignore the Varnava suggestion. The Municipality of Ano Liosia agreed to keep receiving Attica’s garbage, however, at a high price. Studies kept coming. In 1995, ESDKNA recommended that two sites be studied, one at Keratea-Markopoulo (a year later, the site was declared of extreme archaeological interest) and one at either Avlona or Grammatiko. In an endless series of surveys and studies (frequently conflicting) by universities and private individuals, Keratea and Avlona were rejected in favor of four smaller sites in eastern Attica. The Eastern Attica Prefectural Council accepted the plan but the Environment and Public Works Ministry gave its preliminary approval for Keratea, Grammatiko and Avlona. In 1998, a new survey was commissioned on the basis of an integrated prefectural or regional plan, and after many trials and much tribulation, in 2003, then environment and public works minister Vasso Papandreou passed a law siting the XYTAs at Keratea, Fyli and Grammatiko. In 2004 European Union funding approval was granted for the projects from the Cohesion Fund, and tenders were issued. The only thing left now is the Council of State ruling on the recourse by mayors and local residents.