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New bill aims to set rules around Easter bonfires to curb lawlessness

People look on at a bonfire on Saturday night
File photo (Photo: Christos Theodorides)

The government has prepared a bill which will douse the currently out of control and controversial Easter bonfire celebrations, generally centered around the lambradjia.

A bill prepared by the interior ministry seeks out a €5,000 fine or a three-year prison sentence for those not adhering to proposed regulations, estimated to be enforced from 2024.

The yearly fireside revelries have been a constant headache for the authorities who face a barrage of criticism for not doing enough to keep the festivities under control.

But the bill seeks to achieve just that, by setting three key stipulations: a bonfire may only be lit with the permission of the local authority – which will issue a permit, preparing the bonfire may only begin eight days before Easter Sunday, and that the only materials to be used in the bonfire are those provided by the local authority.

It also stipulates that only wood may be used, meaning that revelers cannot turn up with petrol cannisters to feed the flames. Notably, the base diameter and height of the bonfire may not exceed 30 metres.

Other parts of the bill state that local parishes, if they wish to have a bonfire near the local church, may submit a request to the local authorities 30 days before Easter Sunday. The local authorities will only be allowed to grant one permit per local parish.

The fire services must be informed within 24 hours of the permit being issued, and they also have the power to rescind the permit at any time if they deem the measures are not being adhered to.

Critics of the bonfires will be delighted to hear that if four complaints are registered by residents living within 200 metres of the bonfire then the permit can be rescinded. Complaints can be linked to noisy disturbances or general riotous behaviour.

Permits can also be withdrawn if the local authority has reason to believe that the stipulations are not being adhered to – say, additional wood being brought in.

The police and fire services will also have the right to request the permit be withdrawn.

Daily Phileleftheros reported that other conditions are that bonfires may only be lit if there is a 30-metre perimeter clear of dry vegetation and electricity lines.

 

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