Cyprus currently has around 120 illegal dumpsites, with the Fire Service having been called to extinguish fires at 45 such sites in the Nicosia district alone over the past two years, the House environment committee heard on Wednesday.

MPs urged authorities to take immediate action.

Committee chairman and Green Party MP Charalambos Theopemptou also told journalists after the meeting that a dumpsite in Paphos that caught fire last week was extinguished only to reignite shortly after and cause a major blaze in the area, hitting villages of Polemi, Psathi and Choulou.

Theopemptou added that the responsible services informed MPs about the approximately 120 known illegal dumpsites across Cyprus, though he and other committee members believe the actual number could be double or triple that figure.

“The situation is unacceptable, a real failure in household waste management, which denotes a lack of inspection,” he said.

He added that buried natural materials at dumpsites produce highly flammable gases, posing a risk of spontaneous combustion.

Theopemptou suggested the creation of small green points within cities and communities where people can dump specific flammable and hazardous materials, citing successful practices abroad.

He further stressed the need for changes in waste management and the implementation of measures such as firebreaks, controlled grazing, volunteer training and community assistance for immediate response.

During the meeting, Disy MP Savia Orphanidou said that, besides causing environmental pollution, “dumpsites are a significant fire hazard, as evidenced by the recent fire in Paphos.”

She mentioned an official admission from the Fire Service that a fire occurred at an illegal dumpsite five days before the major Paphos blaze.

“Despite being alerted, no effective action was taken to prevent the subsequent disaster,” Orphanidou said, adding that the problem of illegal dumpsites has worsened since the closure of dumpsites in Kotsiatis and Vati in 2019.

Like Theopemptou, she also called for immediate action beyond studies and discussions, involving all relevant state and local authorities.

“We need a comprehensive approach to environmental restoration, as much as we need to strengthen monitoring mechanisms and waste management,” she said, adding that installing cameras at problematic sites could be a viable solution to prevent certain problems.

Akel MP Nikos Kettiros remarked that despite previous assurances from various departments about their readiness, only verbal commitments were made, and no tangible actions followed.

He highlighted the ongoing issue of more than 100 illegal dumpsites that should have been closed since Cyprus joined the European Union.

Kettiros also pointed out the ongoing underground fire at a dumpsite in the Famagusta district, which, according to him, “keeps emitting harmful substances, with no one taking responsibility.”

Diko MP Chrysanthos Savvides likened the fires to “a modern-day Hydra”, stressing the need for the state and society to recognise changing times and climatic conditions and take preventive measures.

He lamented the lack of protective actions for the environment, such as acquiring aircrafts, installing cameras, and closing dumpsites, which exacerbate fire risks.

Savvides also mentioned the marginalisation of rural areas, leading to increased combustible material and underscored the importance of prevention.

“However, the government is showing concrete support for fire victims who have lost their property, irrigation systems and crops,” he said.