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12° Nicosia,
24 July, 2024
 
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Dumping dilemma as Cyprus struggles to break the cycle of illegal waste

Environmental stalemate sparks urgent call for action and innovative solutions

Pavlos Neophytos

The problem of the existence of three illegal dumpsites in the Akamas community area has been trapped in a vicious circle of blame for years. Despite bringing the issue to the attention of the Environment Agency and the affected local authorities, namely Pano and Kato Arodes, following complaints, it remains unresolved. As a result, year after year, the volume of waste, mainly rubble, prunings, and other useless solid materials that should have been disposed of at the Green Point of the City of Chrysochous, continues to increase. Not only the two municipalities but also the neighboring communities of Drousha and Ineia have repeatedly urged the State to establish a green point in the area to prevent illegal dumping at the three sites. However, these requests have been in vain.

As revealed by the investigation carried out by "K," typically in such cases, due to the difficulty of finding witnesses against the perpetrators, the state mechanism, specifically the Environment Department, merely records the illegal dumpsites after an on-the-spot investigation. A letter is then sent to the local authorities, with notification to the Provincial Administration, for proper removal. On their part, the communities state that they are small and cannot afford continuous garbage removal. They emphasize that the solution to closing the dumpsites requires the creation of a green spot. To achieve this, they have requested a piece of land concession from the Provincial Administration, and they are currently awaiting a response. Simultaneously, the implementation of the current government's promise to establish an Environmental Control Agency is also pending.

"We have conveyed to the communities in the area that illegal dumpsites are unacceptable and they should independently seek a green area permit..."

The two illegal dumpsites are situated within the administrative boundaries of Pano Arodes, while the third is located in Kato Arodes. In the case of Pano Arodes, the first is visible from the main road from Kathika to Polis Chrysochous, while the second, the largest among them, is situated next to a Natura 2000 site. According to local authorities, the three landfills are primarily used by residents of neighboring villages because the population of these two small communities does not justify the large quantities of accumulated waste.

Notice of compliance

"According to the Communities Law, it is the responsibility of the local authorities to clean up these illegal dumpsites," stated Kostas Voskos, a senior officer at the Environment Department's Paphos office, during an interview with K. He further mentioned that they are aware of the existence of the two landfills in Pano Arodes due to citizens' complaints in 2022. When asked about the procedure followed, he explained that in 2022, after conducting a site visit and identifying the issue through an official, the Office sent a notice of compliance to the Pano Arodes Community Council, with simultaneous notification to the District Administration. Another notice of compliance was dispatched in April 2023. Additionally, Mr. Voskos highlighted that one of the dumpsites is located adjacent to a Natura 2000 site, prompting the Office to also inform the Game and Wildlife Service about the notices.The communities in the area attribute the ongoing problem's persistence to the failure to address their repeated plea for the establishment of a green area spanning the communities of Ineia, Drousha, Pano, and Kato Arodes.

The green point

As for the communities in the area, they attribute the ongoing problem's persistence to the lack of fulfillment of their repeated request for the establishment of a green area between the communities of Ineia, Drousha, Pano, and Kato Arodes. Stefanos Mattheou, the community leader of Pano Arodes, acknowledges the issue within his community's boundaries and informed K that while the Community Council can easily take action to close a landfill, he is urging the state to provide an alternative, specifically the creation of a green area. In his opinion, without this solution, the previous problem that prevailed before the dumpsites were established will resurface - garbage being dumped anywhere within the community's boundaries. This is because residents in the region are reluctant to transport garbage to the distant green spot in Polis Chrysochous. He emphasized that both the Department of Environment and the Provincial Administration are aware of the problem and should work towards finding a solution. He reiterated that the goal is not solely to close the dumpsites but to discover a solution that prevents the area from becoming a dumping ground once again.

"The situation was such that we took steps to clean up the garbage site on the boundary of Kato Arodes before August. However, residents from the surrounding area - as it appears our community's location is convenient for others - continued to dump waste. Furthermore, many individuals believe their actions are legal since they consider this location to be the designated green spot for the area," stated Myria Ioannou, the community leader of Kato Arodes. She emphasized the necessity for finding a solution due to the significant problem. Monthly garbage removal is mandatory, but as small, financially disadvantaged communities, they require the establishment of an officially sanctioned green area to serve the residents. In addition, Stelios Koupparis, the community mayor of Drousha, communicated to "K" that there is no available state land within the geographical boundaries of the communities for the creation of a green area. As a result, they have approached the Paphos District Administration to request Turkish Cypriot land for this purpose. Despite this, they have yet to receive a response from the Environment Department regarding the green area creation application.In relation to the unregulated disposal of prunings in rural areas, Theopeptou noted that the Republic of Cyprus will soon face scrutiny from the EU.

"We have conveyed to the communities in the area that illegal dumpsites are unacceptable and they should independently seek a green area permit from both the Environment Department and the Urban Planning Department," remarked Paphos regional head Mary Lambrou in an interview with K. She added, "The relevant services should thoroughly examine this matter, considering both spatial planning and safety aspects. Concerns such as harassment, inconvenience, and fire hazards could arise." According to Ms. Lambrou, besides the Pano and Kato Arodes region, a similar illegal dumping situation existed in a part of the Choletria community. The Community Council of Choletria relocated the landfill following a recommendation from the Provincial Administration.

Problematic controls

The aforementioned scenario was submitted for commentary to Charalambos Theopeptou, President of the Ecologists' Movement - Citizens' Cooperation. He emphasized that the Environment Department should conduct thorough inspections at waste facilities to monitor vehicles destined for dumping. By implementing this systematically, it could effectively identify vehicles not adhering to proper disposal locations. While acknowledging the understaffing issues within the Environment Department, Theopeptou highlighted that digital solutions are now readily available. "There exists a law that explicitly forbids waste dumping and designates specific disposal sites, but there is no follow-up mechanism to verify if waste was deposited appropriately," he stated. Theopeptou also mentioned that approximately two years ago, legislation was enacted, enabling the Ministry of Agriculture to appoint supervisors for waste management. However, this authority is either overlooked by the Ministry and Community Councils or left unutilized. The legislation grants the Minister of Agriculture the power to delegate individuals to oversee waste management. For instance, a community could nominate an official capable of imposing fines, as outlined in the Waste Act. He further highlighted that despite promises, Cyprus has yet to establish an organized structure for environmental inspections within the Environment Department, such as the appointment of so-called 'environmental police officers.' He stressed that in Cyprus, a culture of "not reporting anyone" prevails. Lastly, addressing the issue of unregulated pruning disposal in rural areas, Theopeptou asserted that this predicament will soon bring the Republic of Cyprus under the scrutiny of the EU, leading to unfavorable repercussions. He elaborated, "We are aiming for a recycling rate of 55% for these materials by 2020-2025, a target that passed 7-8 years ago without any action taken. However, when the EU assesses waste management targets, they will also scrutinize our handling of prunings."

50 officials are coming

"When a complaint is lodged with the Environment Department regarding the illegal dumping of dog waste, the procedure followed by officials involves identifying and documenting the issue. Subsequently, in collaboration with local authorities, an investigation is carried out to determine the responsible parties. However, this process necessitates time and testimonies," explained Kostas Hadjipanagiotou, the Director-General of the Environment Department, during an interview with K. He outlined the procedure undertaken in cases similar to those in the Akamas villages. In response to our observation that it appears citizens are not providing evidence, resulting in waste accumulation and growth, he responded that if this is the scenario and piles of waste persist, the onus falls on the local authority. They are responsible, firstly, for guarding the site to prevent further dumping and secondly, for transporting the waste to an appropriate disposal facility. According to Mr. Hadjipanayotou, if the local authority requires financial assistance for the waste removal process, they can apply for it from the Department of Environment, albeit exclusively in cases involving hazardous waste and waste within a Natura 2000 area.

Simultaneously, he underscored the absence of an Environmental Control Agency in Cyprus. He highlighted that this absence is addressed in President Nicos Christodoulides' governmental plan, which entails the establishment of an agency with 50 officials dedicated solely to inspections. This stands in contrast to the present system where inspections are incorporated into the workload of the Department's officials, alongside their other duties. These officers will be stationed in Nicosia and will oversee and pursue major and high-risk cases. They will be empowered to issue out-of-court fines and pursue legal action against culprits. Concerning landfills, he clarified that they would solely manage significant cases, leaving local authorities responsible for smaller-scale issues. 

[This article was translated from its Greek original] 

TAGS
Cyprus  |  garbage  |  Akamas  |  Paphos  |  dump  |  site  |  environment

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