Rubbish and responsibilities

Fortunately enough, growing public furor and a prosecutor’s intervention helped reason to prevail over political opportunism and awkward management. Municipal officials yesterday began removing the piles of trash that had accumulated on the streets of Athens over the past few days due to the closure of the Ano Liosia landfill. The breakthrough meeting under Athens prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos, who appears to have filled the gap left by the responsible minister, offered a way out of the crisis. At least for now. Indeed, no final solution has been found to the problem that sparked the crisis in the first place (the use of the Ano Liosia dump to dispose of partially processed sludge from the sewage-treatment plant on the islet of Psyttaleia, off the port of Piraeus). Furthermore, all sides must draw their own conclusions from the crisis in view of the fresh round of talks set to take place in the coming weeks. First, the compromise and temporary solution demonstrates that the closure of the landfill could have been avoided had the ministry and the municipalities taken a more constructive stance. There is little doubt that by failing to complete construction of the Psyttaleia sludge-drying unit, the former Socialist administrations led by Costas Simitis bequeathed an acute problem to the conservative administration. Both sides must assume the highest degree of responsibility as they try to reach a settlement under more pressing circumstances. It’s time for cooperation not confrontation. The Environment Ministry must use the strength of persuasion and accelerate plans to complete the Psyttaleia waste-treatment plant. This is the best way to convince the residents of Ano Liosia that it’s worth being patient, as the final solution to the chronic problems that plague their district is only two or three years away. For their part, the municipality officials of Ano Liosia ought to abandon their blackmail tactics. A more responsible attitude would improve living conditions for the millions of people in the capital and the residents of Ano Liosia themselves. The next round of talks should take place with these thoughts in mind.

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