The government on Monday pledged ad hoc financial assistance to residents of Pissouri whose properties are damaged by the unstable ground there, but stressed that this was not compensation per se.
During a discussion in parliament, interior minister Constandinos Petrides said an amount would be disbursed to the affected homeowners in the form of ‘humanitarian assistance’.
It was not immediately clear whether this involved a one-time payment or a recurring imbursement.
For the time being, Petrides said, compensating the homeowners in Pissouri was being ruled out.
Compensation would imply the government is taking responsibility.
In the meantime, a study is to be launched to determine the causes of the problem. A call for tenders for the study is already out, with a July 12 deadline for expressions of interest.
The study would be conducted over two phases: the first lasting four months and focusing on the reasons for the phenomenon; and the second lasting 152 weeks and recommending ways of addressing the issue in the event that relocating the residents is not deemed an option.
Petrides again urged affected property owners to seek redress from the developers and contractors.
Georgia-Elina Zoi,a lawyer representing the disaffected community, told MPs that since 2015 they have been struggling to persuade authorities that the issue is a landslide and not soil subsidence.
She said the phenomenon is impacting not only houses but also electricity cables and roads which have no overlying structures.
The land shifts by approximately 30 centimetres a month, Zoi added. And following this year’s heavy rains, many more residences have been affected which previously had not been.
She said a study by the Geological Survey Department has already demonstrated that the issue is a landslide, due to an absence of infrastructures to manage groundwater – meaning the problem can be attributed to an omission by the state.
The lawyer said the interior minister wants to provide financial assistance to only 17 homes, whereas the properties actually affected are far more.
The residents want their properties to be relocated.
Speaking to reporters later, Greens MP George Perdikis censured the government for its ‘stinginess’ in dealing with the Pissouri community.
In his opinion, the landslide is a geological phenomenon. But although developers and contractors may be culpable in some cases, it was implausible that this was the case across the board, especially since the land is shifting in spots where no structures exist.
Many homes in Pissouri have virtually collapsed, the result of a continuous and accelerating landslip. Seventeen homes are now deemed unfit for habitation.
In late March the auditor-general advised the attorney-general that the whole cause of the destruction of homes in southwest Pissouri is attributable to errors in calculations made by structural engineers registered with the technical chamber who designed the substructures of homes in southwest Pissouri between 1980 and 2005.
Critics say the auditor-general referred to the unstable area as ‘Lakes’ (or ‘Limnes’ in Greek, meaning small brook or water spring), whereas a parliamentary committee had recently identified that the whole of southwest Pissouri – about one million square metres – is unstable due to landslide.