NEWS

Gov’t mulls ways to solve waste disposal problem

After 30 years of recriminations and one-sided views on the management of waste in Attica, it seems that a serious dialogue on new technologies is to be held for the first time on the comparative advantages of disposal methods such as incinerators and thermal treatment units. The opinion of newly elected Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis has been recently added to the Attica Regional Plan for 2006, which left all options open. Kaklamanis spoke of new technologies and his intention to support the construction of a new modern incineration plant that complies with stringent environmental specifications in order to solve one of the area’s chronic problems. Eastern Attica will receive the first unit. Discussion is under way but certain aspects still remain unresolved. The existing law does not provide a solution in the event that the local municipalities refuse to manage the system; only municipalities can undertake the operation of such units. Since the municipalities in eastern Attica are opposed to the siting of landfills in their areas, the idea of a new incineration plant must now be offered to the other 116 local government organizations until a willing recipient is found. Otherwise, amendments will have to be made to the law to break the impasse. During the festivities for Christmas and the New Year, Athens once again looked like a Third World country as mountains of waste collected on the sidewalks next to overflowing bins. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos declared that «over the next few days the problems will be solved,» as space at the stopgap rubbish damp at Fyli is no longer an issue. The problem this time is access to the dump. Sources at the Interior Ministry and the responsible body for waste management (the Union of Municipal Authorities in Attica, or ESDKNA) explained that proper infrastructure – roads mainly – was not built around the temporary landfill, creating delays when emptying the garbage trucks. The matter would have been settled, the same sources declared, if the construction of the stopgap rubbish dump in Fyli had not been «blocked» by the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court. «From the first day we undertook our duties,» said Deputy Interior Minister Thanassis Nakos, «the ministry and responsible authorities have staged a race against time in an attempt to address the problem. The regional plan could not be implemented since the necessary funds had not been provided. The works were scheduled for January 2005 when the contract was signed between ESDKNA, the Attica Regional Authority and the Interior Ministry for the construction of three landfills (Keratea, Grammatiko and Fyli) and a new sorting unit in Elaionas. The amount of -152 million required to complete the works was secured from the Cohesion Fund and the two new landfills (in Keratea and Grammatiko) and the sorting unit were to be built by the Regional Authority while the dump at Fyli would be constructed by ESDKNA with the assistance of the former.» Companies block plans So far the studies for the tender have been conducted and the bids have been lodged. The lowest bidders have already made their offers but the financial bids are pending. As regards Grammatiko, for which the Council of State has ruled in favor of the landfill, the project awaits approval from the Controlling Committee. Rulings by the Council of State regarding the location of the landfills at Fyli and Keratea are still pending. However, the contractors that took part in the tender for the two landfills (Michaniki SA and J&B AVAX) have appealed to the Council of State in dispute of the tender procedure. If all goes according to plan, by the end of January the contractor will be able to start works in Grammatiko and the new landfill could be ready to collect garbage by the end of the year. Of course, local resistance must be taken into account, as it is unlikely that mayors and other local bodies will accept the construction of a landfill in their areas. Today there would not be a problem if delays had not occurred in the High Court and in particular the delays regarding the Fyli rubbish dump (the largest of the three landfills planned). ESDKNA, which represents 87 Attica municipalities, has confirmed that the cell in operation will hold out until next July. If in the meantime the procedures are completed, the waste will go to the site for which it was initially intended. If problems arise then the government will have to resort to once again widening the «temporary» cell until the works at Grammatiko have been completed.