The nine Vasiliko communities called off the dynamic measures they started on Wednesday, after receiving assurances that they would have a meeting with President Anastasiades, but they are being very optimistic if they think this will signal the end of their woes. Anastasiades will not order a clear-out of the heavy industries concentrated in the area, nor is he likely to suspend their operation until they introduce measures to limit the pollution they are causing.
Some cash assistance could be offered but this would not make the area any healthier nor stop the damage being done to the environment. An illustration of government disregard for the residents of the communities was the time it took to set up a fire station in the area, which was a long-standing demand. One has now been set up, but according to one of the community leaders it has not been staffed yet.
Worse still, was the government decision to relocate the asphalt factories that the Yeri and Dhali communities wanted moved away from their area, to Vasiliko. Protests by the communities have stopped these plans, but it was indicative of the government’s ‘policy’ to dump every pollution-causing industry there. Currently there are cement factories, an EAC power station, a tyre recycling plant, oil and LPG storage depots and a waste treatment plant while an LNG jetty is under construction.
All these industries had to be located somewhere and government was right to create a heavy industry zone close to the coast. It seemed to have ignored, however, an important part of this policy – measures for protecting the environment and the residents of the surrounding communities from the pollution that would inevitably be caused. Units operating in the area have anti-pollution processes in place, because this was a condition of being granted permits, but have the authorities ensured these are operating effectively?
Last month there was a big fire at a facility that recycles old tyres, spreading a thick cloud of toxic smoke that darkened the sky over the area for two days. All the authorities could do was advise the residents to stay indoors, while also playing down the health risk. This was another example of the lack of supervision by the authorities. In a report, a year earlier, the audit office said that the company recycling the tyres was claiming it had processed them but had not, even though the government was telling Brussels that they were being processed.
This was not the only example of the government’s failure to ensure pollution in the area is kept at the lowest level possible. Its disregard for the way the Pentakomo waste treatment plant has been operating for the last five years is nothing short of scandalous. As part of their dynamic measures, the nine communities had decided to indefinitely block access to the wate treatment plant, where a fire had broken out last weekend, from Wednesday. The plant, which receives all the Limassol household waste, has been in operation for five years and has still not received a licence because it does not satisfy the requirements set for its operation.
Set up so that the Vati landfill would be closed down, the treatment plant’s operation has been an unmitigated disaster. It does not operate in line with EU recycling regulations or with the description of and conditions of environmental approval given, said the federation of environment organisations, in a statement on Tuesday.
As we have reported in the past the treatment plant is still burying most of the treated waste it produces, because there were no takers for the sub-standard alternative fuel it was producing. According to the Limassol mayor Nicos Nicolaides it is currently burying 70 per cent of its treated waste, while the EU limit is 12 per cent. Nothing has been done by the government to put things right and to ensure that the plant operates on the basis of the specifications of its contract. Nobody in government seems bothered about the ecological damage done by burying the treated waste nor about the infringement procedure being brought by the European Commission, which co-financed the project, against Cyprus.
The plant should have been closed down by the authorities, after five years of problematic operation, but the government has done nothing, oblivious to the pollution and risks to public health by its continued operation.
The residents of the nine communities may do what the government has refused to do – close down the plant – after they meet President Anastasiades and realise that the protection of the environment and public health are not high on his list of priorities.