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18 July, 2024
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Ministry takes action against illegal dumping sites fueling fires

Government plan targets community inaction, while imposing penalties, to prevent environmental disasters


The recent wildfire in Paphos has sparked significant debate not only about the state's inadequate response but also about the chronic issues of illegal waste dumping. The blaze, which started near Psathi, highlighted the long-standing negligence and systemic issues surrounding illegal bushfires and the environmental hazards they pose.

A report in Kathimerini by Pavlos Neophytos a year ago sounded the alarm about illegal dumpsites in Akamas villages. The problem has persisted due to a blame game among the authorities, with communities, the Provincial Administration and the Environment Department pointing fingers at each other. Communities cited the lack of a green spot and the high cost of waste removal, while the Provincial Administration and Environment Department demanded action from each other.

The government's plan aims to address these issues comprehensively, but its success will depend on cooperation among all stakeholders and strict enforcement of regulations.

Last Tuesday, an illegal landfill in Paphos caught fire and led to the destruction of 6-8 square kilometers of land, affecting 21 houses, five of which were completely destroyed, and damaging crops. The fire exposed the urgent need for better waste management and fire prevention strategies.

Urgent action needed

The Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development, and Environment has recognized the need for immediate action. They have prepared a plan focusing on three main areas: cleaning up illegal dumps, cracking down on illegal waste dumping, and creating more green spots. The cleanup campaign, set to run from September to December 2024, will cost 3 million euros, which the ministry will provide to local authorities.

Agriculture Minister Maria Panayiotou emphasized the need for community action to prevent future incidents and announced the inclusion of good practices from French experts. The ministry has also signed a memorandum with the Police to ensure safety during inspections of illegal sites.

Holding leaders accountable

The new plan also aims to hold community leaders accountable. In the past, similar plans have failed, but this time, there is a push for cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Interior to enforce consequences for leaders who allow illegal dumpsites to operate.

Comprehensive measures

The plan includes a cleanliness campaign, enforcement of existing laws, closure and rehabilitation of uncontrolled waste sites, and the creation of a nationwide network of green spots. Community Councils and Municipalities will be informed of the financial support available for cleanup efforts, and they must provide detailed information about the sites to be cleaned.

Tackling illegal dumping

The plan also addresses the issue of illegal dumping by waste transport operators. Discussions will be held to regulate the profession of waste transporter and ensure that waste is delivered to licensed facilities. The state may also incentivize the creation of new waste management plants if current facilities are overwhelmed.

Request for EU support

Incidentally, Minister Panayiotou mentioned that Cyprus currently has nine aircraft for firefighting, with plans to repair a tenth. She also highlighted the EU Civil Protection Mechanism's role in providing assistance, as seen during the Paphos fire when Greece sent two Canadair CL-415s. The establishment of a rescEU base in Cyprus is contingent on acquiring privately owned aircraft.

The wildfire in Paphos serves as a stark reminder of the need for effective waste management and fire prevention strategies. The government's plan aims to address these issues comprehensively, but its success will depend on cooperation among all stakeholders and strict enforcement of regulations.

Cyprus  |  wildfires  |  heatwave  |  fires

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