Drive to clear illegal landfills

Deputy Interior Minister Thanassis Nakos yesterday encouraged local authorities in northern Greece to help clear the countryside of hundreds of illegal landfills by year-end and avoid millions of euros in fines from Brussels. Nakos has intensified efforts to clear up the landfills as they are often the site of fires, and rising temperatures will only increase the risk of blazes breaking out in them. It is thought that some of the fires that ravaged Greece last summer – including one on Skiathos and another in Corinth – had started at landfills. Nakos told local authorities yesterday that his committee aimed to reduce the number of illegal landfills by 70 percent. Estimates about the number of makeshift dumps polluting the Greek countryside range from 800 to 3,000. «The European Court of Justice has given us a deadline to eradicate all landfills by the end of December,» Nakos said. «Our efforts are aimed at ensuring there will be no more than 500 uncontrolled landfills by the end of the year,» he added. As Nakos was seeking to drum up support in the provinces, his superior, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, was discussing fire prevention tactics with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in Athens. Apart from boosting firefighting personnel and improving cooperation with neighboring countries, clearing up landfills is a top priority. Dumpsites are often the site of fires, set by careless locals, reckless arsonists or triggered by methane explosions. Worryingly, one of the greatest concentrations of makeshift landfills is in the Peloponnesian prefecture of Ileia, which bore the brunt of last year’s catastrophic fires. But the region of Macedonia, which Nakos visited yesterday, also has dozens of illegal dumps. According to the regional governor of Central Macedonia, Giorgos Tsiotras, there are around 82 makeshift landfills «active» at the moment, down from 542 in 2004. Cleaning up illegal landfills is not the only challenge for authorities. According to EU directives, they also have to create modern waste-processing plants next to all official landfills so that the volume of trash that ends up being dumped is reduced.