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Protestors in Athens Take to the Streets as Landfill Development Continues

With what criteria should we evaluate which places make perfect wastelands? Should we continue burdening an already polluted area or should we create new sites of pollution? There is not a more igniting local issue than the waste management of Athens and Attica, particularly these days anticipating the Greek Municipal Elections of May 2014.

With few infrastructure projects in progress, big construction corporations are yearning to be a part of Attica's waste management endeavors. Currently being in an initiation phase, with most waste treatment facilities not even a decade old, waste management has estimated profits, but be aware of the conflicts that lie ahead.

The Greek governments stumble on the spatial selection of the terrain that will host any garbage related activity.

The sides of the street at Egaleo Ring road near the landfills, Ano-Liossia, West Attica, Athens Greece.

Thriasio is a western Attica plain separated from Athens basin by a short mountain range. In the 1960s, Ano-Liossia garbage dump was constructed near Thriasio. For more than thirty years the urban wastes of Athens were disposed of there. Thriasio was changing from an agricultural to an industrial zone since many industries were already operating there. The Ano-Liossia dump brought further deterioration to the area and attracted other disturbing urban activities (bus garages, fuel storage, etc). With just a ten km radius from the centre of Athens, it was inevitable that at some point the city would reach the dump. In 1998, the Ano-Liossia dump closed and the restorationlandscape designs commenced. However the citizens of nearby municipalities call the west winds the garbage breeze. The statistics of health problems in the area are heartbreaking.

Birds eye view of Fyli landfill (in front), Ano-Liossia dump (behind) and the garbage recycling facilities (between them). Athens, Greece, is spreading in the background.

To meet the garbage disposal needs of the growing city of Athens, in 2008 next to the half-closed and half-restored Ano-Liossia dump, a new landfill was created, Fyli Sanitary Landfill. Additionally, two other landfills were scheduled to be constructed at Keratea and Grammatiko municipalities respectively.

Ano-Liossia half restored dump as viewed from Egaleo Ring road, West Attica, Athens, Greece.

Fyli Sanitary Landfill was considered a positive addition to the heavily polluted area of Thriasio. But what followed shows the outrageous ineffectiveness of a corrupted administration. Garbage from other Greek towns and islands gathered at Fyli landfill, and if this wasn't enough, various hazardous and toxic materials, plus hospital wastes and chemicals, were dumped there too. As a result, in a recent EU environmental assessment Fyli landfill was described as "a monument of environmental chaos, disease, and human suffering."

In the dawn of these events, the wild protest against the construction of Keratea landfill (a.k.a. the Keratea Incidents) sounds more than reasonable. Especially since the territory at stake is considered a place of great natural beauty and archaeological value, and the locals are organized and ready to fight for a common cause. Additionally, Keratea will host a garbage processing facility. Grammatiko landfill also triggered local protest, but the construction eventually began only to pause later due to defects and design miscalculations.

?Keratea Incidents; blockades during the protest against the landfill construction at Keratea, East Attica, Athens, Greece.

Who could imagine, that in 500 B.C. Athenians established the first municipal garbage dump, a mile away from the city walls.

Should garbage related activities be considered as a harbinger of environmental degradation? If yes, to what extent?

Credits: Photos by Valia Stavrianidi or linked to sources. Data linked to sources.