Environmental inspectors who went to an illegal dump in Limassol to probe allegations of waste management irregularities ended up fearing for their lives, prompting the environment minister to admit the state has been unable to deal with lawlessness.
Local media said high-ranking administrators from the Environment Ministry and a Fire Department official went on Tuesday to inspect an illegal dump in Ypsonas, Limassol district, following complaints about illegal dumping waste including items destined for recycling.
According to state environmental chief inspector Costas Hadjipanayiotou, who spoke to a local television news program on Tuesday, three administrators “had received a complaint and went to visit the nearby illegal dump site, which was well known to authorities.”
The minister suggested there were additional unlawful activities suspected at the site, referring to commercial interests, but declined to comment further
“We had filed multiple complaints about this illegal dump but nothing happened,” Hadjipanayiotou said, adding that officials often received threats warning them to stay away from the location in question.
But the official added while the administrators were at the dump on Tuesday as part of a campaign to check for fire hazards, onsite operators got angry and moved a heavy duty truck in such a way that nobody could get out of the facility.
“They closed them in by using tractors to block their way through the exit ramp, and at this very moment police have been called to the site,” Hadjipanayiotou said.
"We hit rock bottom when inspectors fear for their lives"
“And now we hit rock bottom where we have inspectors falsely imprisoned at a dump site fearing for their lives,” he added.
Environment Minister Costas Kadis, who was furious Wednesday morning when he spoke on state radio, vowed to take the matter up with the Justice Minister and the Chief of Police.
“This is utter lawlessness and the state has had difficulty dealing with this kind of problem,” Kadis said.
The outgoing minister also suggested there were additional unlawful activities suspected at the site, referring to commercial interests, but declined to comment further.
Additional media reports said the dump has been known for illegal activities and operating without a license in the last two years, while inert waste such as construction site debris and other materials have often been seen on site.
Inspectors had failed to catch operators in the act
But officials say inspectors had failed to catch operators in the act.
Police told Knews that the incident had taken place Tuesday around noon, when one of the administrators accused the land owner at the dump site of grabbing him by the collar and threatening him.
The land owner, who rejects the allegations and has further vowed to comply with the laws, was taken down to a local station where he was charged with common assault.
No arrests have been made while Environment Ministry officials are said to be planning their next step in cooperation with other state agencies.