The only solution for industrial zone in Geri, Nicosia is to move it away from the residential area, President Nikos Christodoulides said, admitting that it was the state’s mistake to allow an industrial zone to be near residences.

Two weeks ago, a fire broke out at a plastics and paper recycling plant in the Geri industrial zone and burned for four days, while also spewing toxic dioxins into the atmosphere. At the time, the mayor of the area just outside the capital had spoken to the media saying that the residences had encroached on the already existing industrial zone after receiving licences rom the state to build there.

Speaking in Geri, where he was inaugurating Zodia Park in a refugee estate, on Thursday night, Christodoulides said: “Last Tuesday and Wednesday I had two ministerial meetings on this issue. Today, there was a new meeting of ministers and instructions were given that no new permission will be given.

“I have called both the environment department and the competent service of the Labour Ministry to tighten all the conditions set for the operation of such factories, especially in terms of waste and the risk they involve.”

He acknowledged that it is a problem that the state created an industrial zone and then built residences around it.

“We need to work to remove the specific [industrial] zone,” he said.

The president said that there has never been spatial planning done in Cyprus, adding that the reasoning had always been the Cyprus problem.

“As a result, we have these problems in Geri and the neighbouring areas and in the Vasilikos region with twice the number of communities in an environment that creates several problems that we must face through the spatial planning of the country and we will do this immediately,” he said.

In addition, the Mayor of Geri, Neophytos Papalazarou, addressed the problems facing the region and the residents.

He stated that he will deliver a memorandum regarding the development of Geri, saying that it has the largest residential development in all of Cyprus, with 15,000 inhabitants, but it also faces problems at the level of understaffing of the municipality, where there is no municipal engineer.

He also explained that the anger of the residents about the problems with the industrial zone is justified, as the quality of life is being degraded, which was also seen with the recent fire.

Two weeks ago, one of two paper and plastics recycling plants in Cyprus burnt down, causing an enormous problem in the processing of these waste materials as alternatives need to be found quickly.

The Ecobalance Recycling Ltd plant, which was collecting paper and plastics from the recycling collection company Green Dot, burnt down after a pile of waste was brought by a truck to the plant. The truck seems to have had some flammable material inside that caught alight and caused the blaze that destroyed the factory.

Recycling issues aside, there were also health concerns. Greens leader Charalambos Theopemptou told the Cyprus Mail that the blaze “released dioxins into the air, and non-volatile gases that do not dissipate”.

According to the information registered, the levels remained low, but residents in the area were advised to preventatively shelter inside and take precautions.

The World Health Organisation has said that dioxins are environmental pollutants.

“They belong to the so-called ‘dirty dozen’ – a group of dangerous chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Dioxins are of concern because of their highly toxic potential. Experiments have shown they affect a number of organs and systems,” the organisation says.

“Once dioxins enter the body, they last a long time because of their chemical stability and their ability to be absorbed by fat tissue, where they are then stored in the body.”

In Geri, further measurements conducted on the air quality showed that because of the weather conditions measurements were recorded showing lower levels of dioxins, not raising concern.