The nine communities around Vasiliko continued to vehemently oppose the relocation of asphalt plants to the area during a meeting on Wednesday with Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis, which came after yet another protest outside the electricity authority power station and the waste management site.
The organizing committee uniting the nine communities said that future inaction on the issue might result in further, more serious protests, like the indefinite blockade of the local EAC power station.
Earlier in the day, residents of the nine communities blocked the entrance to the electricity authority’s power station for an hour, before moving to the waste management site at Pentakomo, which they plan to blockade indefinitely to protest the growing health and ecological risks in the area.
The protesters prevented access to anyone working at the facilities, aside from those in charge of safety and security.
The community leader of nearby Kalavasos, Lefteris Fokas, who also took part in the protest, said that groups of 10 people will alternate throughout the day to deny access to the facilities.
A strong police presence was deployed to the protest’s site to avoid incidents.
“Our patience is at an end. Nothing has been done to prevent fires from breaking out in the past,” Fokas said.
“Should the situation not change drastically in the coming days, we will proceed to block the access to both sites indefinitely.”
On Tuesday Fokas accused the fire service of passivity in their response to the fire that broke out at the waste treatment plant in Pentakomo last Friday.
However, on Wednesday he said he was misquoted by the media and said his statements were only made on behalf of the nine communities.
“I do not have anything against the Fire Service in particular, nor I wanted to comment on their level of expertise,” Fokas said.
“I was simply saying that the response to this fire was unsatisfactory, with only one fire truck dispatched to the incident.
“I have been in touch with the Fire Service throughout the past days expressing my disappointment. Would they have reacted the same way if their family members were endangered?”
Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis met the protesters later on Wednesday where he listened to their concerns firsthand.
After the meeting, which was held at Mari community council, Kadis admitted that the area is facing many problems as a result of past missteps, “but it is our intention to tackle them”.
The minister said he presented a number of suggestions to solve some of the problems regarding the waste management unit, and the operation of other units in the area.
He suggested the appointment of a special inspector that will be chosen by the communities themselves to carry out checks on the units that are active in the area, and for there to be a more responsible management on the part of the businesses themselves.
In addition, Kadis said he understands the residents’ feelings of indignation and appealed to everyone “to cooperate and concentrate on solving the problems and not on disruption, which can only cause problems”.
Larnaca district administrator Odysseas Hadjistefanou said that the minister conveyed the government’s positions on the whole matter and that the communities also presented their positions.
“We insist on the revocation of the cabinet decision to authorise asphalt plants in the area,” Foka said after the meeting, adding that “we can discuss other issues later”.
He added that residents want to be optimistic that efforts will be made to solve the problems.
“However, our people are waiting for and answer which I believe the minister cannot take responsibility for,” he said.
“We are waiting for an answer from the president regarding the asphalt plants, so that our people can be vindicated and stop the protests”.
Earlier in the day he threatened that “should the situation continue, we will be forced to appeal to the European Court of Justice.”
Together with Fokas, several other MPs joined the protest on Wednesday, namely Prodromos Alabritis, Andreas Pashiourtides and Andreas Apostolou, as well as the community leaders of Zygi, Mari, Maroni, Psematismos and Asgata.
The nine communities that have staged the protest have found an ally in the Federation of Environmental Organisations of Cyprus (FEO), which on Tuesday issued a hard-hitting announcement, echoing concerns about the impact on the environment and human health from the burning of waste at the landfill, in an area already under extreme environmental pressure from the over-concentration of heavy industry.
The FEO brings together 22 local NGOs.
The communities have for years been campaigning to stop the relocation of additional industrial plants to the area, most recently of three cement factories, while lobbying for stringent adherence to the health and safety rules and a local fire station.