OPINION

Consultation on the quarries bill

Real discussion of the Development Ministry’s new draft law, which gives mining companies a legal advantage in areas where quarries are located, was triggered by the publication of Kathimerini’s front-page article on Sunday. Kathimerini’s report highlighted the potential threats to the environment if Article 4 of the bill passes into law. Indeed, true consultation has only just begun, as we can conclude from a letter sent by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas (to be published in this Sunday’s Kathimerini, as he has requested), which reveals that debate on the subject so far has only included university academics and mining company associations. There has been no participation by environmental groups and local authority organizations representing the citizens who would suffer the consequences if (as foreseen by the draft law) «public interest is further eroded in order for (firms) to exercise their right to exploit quarries.» Let us hope that Kathimerini’s article will lead to a broader and more substantial public consultation on this matter. The absence of those parties directly affected by the development of quarries is also anticipated after the approval of the legislation, as the bill foresees decisions being made purely on the basis of recommendations by the Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration and by certain prefectural councils. The draft law aggravates an already serious ailment in the public sector, namely the confusion of competencies. The Environment and Public Works Ministry – despite its dual and contradictory role involving decisions about public works which destroy the environment it is supposed to protect – is responsible for land planning in this country. A law like the one being proposed would create needless friction and detrimental interference in the competencies of others. The Development Ministry’s general secretary, Nikos Stefanou, noted that this bill is the product of bureaucrats, not political leaders. The question that arises is simple: Now that the ministry has a comprehensive picture of the problems likely to be created, will it amend its subordinates’ product?