OPINION

Cleaning up mess of illegal trash

It’s strange but true: 2,626 illegal dumps are operating in Greece at the moment. The figure was listed in a revealing report by a special committee set up by the Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works that confirmed the unnerving extent of the problem. Of the total number of illegal landfills, 1,453 are still in operation, putting a heavy strain on the environment, while 1,173 have been shut down because they were full or were no longer useful. But the necessary measures to ensure that they pose no threat to public health and the environment were not taken. Some 638 dumps are bordering on forests posing a fire hazard. Over 300 of them are less than 100 meters from rivers or streams, threatening the quality of water resources. Another 168 are considered to be serious environmental hazards. The government must carry out plans to clean up 2,031 rubbish dumps by the end of next year and to close down all landfills by 2008, replacing them with waste processing plants. Only then will Greece get rid of the chronic garbage problem that has led Greece to the European Court of Justice. The projects are to be implemented by regional and local authorities. And this is a cause for concern. Besides, if it is possible to clean up 2,000 landfills in less than two years, why have the responsible authorities not done so up until now? And is there any guarantee that they will do so this time? The ministry must do its best to promote the projects by offering technical assistance and funds. Although a large number of responsibilities have been assigned to the local administration organizations, they have often proven extremely rigid and ineffective in their performance. Regrettably, they appear to do better when it comes to granting political favors. Local administration organizations have made colossal mistakes that have helped perpetuate the garbage crisis. They now have a chance to redeem themselves by cleaning up these sources of pollution with state help. Let’s hope that they will live up to people’s expectations and, at the same time, restore their own image.