NEWSLETTER - 5 February 2021
It seems very strange to be writing about Corfu and about waste in this rather grim January when there are several other things to worry about. However, hope springs eternal that we will all be out there this summer enjoying meeting old friends and tucking in to the calamari at our favourite tavernas.
As usual there are only two topics to discuss - Waste and Erimitis
The Sinies Community Project (called ‘SIN.PRAXI’) continues to develop the ‘Small Green (Recycling) Spot’ at the site of the old olive press in Elaiourgia, Sinies. A lot of hard work has gone into this over the past 15 months but I fear that background ‘noise’ from the political and bureaucratic systems is often less than helpful. I am afraid to say that I also think that progress on the general topic of waste management in Corfu has slowed or stalled in the last 6 months. The fundamental question of how to deal with general waste and where to put it has still not been answered.
However let me start on the good news.The truck we paid for has been of great use and proudly displays our logo. The SIN.PRAXI team is having a ‘parapet’ system constructed to heighten the sides of the truck. This will enable more recyclables to be transported in one journey, thus reducing time and cost. SIN.PRAXI has taken on the Municipality’s cardboard collection route on a Tuesday, serving businesses in the Nissaki, Gimari (which takes in Agni, Kentroma, Kalami and Kouloura), and Kassiopi communities. Furthermore, collections of other recyclables are being made weekly from the Nissaki and Kassiopi Green Corners and brought to the Sinies Small Green Spot for sorting, baling and onward transport to recycling factories on the Greek mainland via a local agent.
The site itself is being kept clean and tidy and is providing part-time work to three local individuals, as well as one full-time worker provided on a temporary basis by the North Corfu Municipality. Local volunteers are still an active part of the team. As part of the agreement with the Municipality, old mattresses are now being processed and the resulting materials recycled. This should see an end to unsightly piles of mattresses by the roadsides in spring.
The Small Green Spot is in the fourth and final stage of its licensing process. There is more work to be done with regard to health and safety permits, fire protection measures and the provision of a washroom. We may contribute to the cost of that.
Plans are going ahead to develop a Community Garden on the piece of land next door. Two of the key aims are to engage with neighbouring schools in an environmental learning programme and to provide a solution for the community’s organic waste. The SIN.PRAXI team has no budget for this and would very much welcome your practical support in the following ways:
If any of you would like to follow the Sinies Community Project/SIN.PRAXI on Facebook - and I’m sure they would love your support - you can find them at facebook.com/sinpraxi.
On a less positive note, the Covid pandemic has not been good for the recyclables market. Prices have plummeted with the result that factories are refusing to take some materials and are offering little cash value for others. Recyclables are beginning to pile up in sites and warehouses around Corfu as it is not currently viable to ship it to the mainland.
There is concern that Kassiopi is perhaps not embracing the recycling initiative as quickly as one would like; however, the SIN.PRAXI team will be working with them over the coming weeks and months to organise the summer collection programme and encourage as many local businesses as possible to recycle. The North Corfu Municipality has supplied a full-time, permanent worker to the Kassiopi Green Corner and volunteers are no longer involved.
Good news from Gimari is that their Green Corner is going ahead and is set to be operational by the spring. The Municipality has agreed to a location just below the Municipality building at the Kouloura junction, and to providing a suitable fencing solution. The Green Corner will operate unmanned following an initial period of drop-in support from local volunteers as well as members of the SIN.PRAXI team. Harris Katsaros (Local Council Representative for the Gimari Community) and Louise Dowswell-Katsarou (President of the Gimari Cultural Association) are working with SIN.PRAXI to plan the roll-out of the Green Corner together with a public awareness campaign to engage community members and businesses.
Progress is definitely being made, albeit one step at a time. All we, and the brilliant SIN.PRAXI team, can do is plough on. At least the amount of waste going to landfill from North East Corfu is being reduced.
The wider picture of the waste management situation in Corfu still remains very unsatisfactory. There is still no consensus amongst politicians from the three municipalities, the Ionian regional government, and Athens on what IS TO BE DONE, (and of course who pays), about general waste disposal for Corfu.
I attach below, (at the end of this newsletter), two recent articles from Enimerosi, which I think are pretty revealing in their lack of clarity, if that makes sense as a comment.
No actual building work has started and this is because there are still court cases in progress regarding details of the planning permission. Surprisingly, NCH seem to be trying to revive the idea of a marina, which they had promised not to do. They also continue to search for an anchor tenant/hotel operator and/or a new investor to come in to help them. They do not appear to be making much progress, but they are still there trying and it is quite possible that if the court cases conclude this spring, they will look at building come autumn. The local opposition is, if anything, louder and more engaged than ever. There also continue to be occasional discussions regarding an alternative more eco-friendly development.
To general surprise there has been some activity during the last few days of January, when diggers cleared parts of the land before and after the track that leads up to the lookout point (‘Filakio’) from the Agios Stefanos road. Sources say that these are designated grasslands and that no permits have been issued for working on them, as yet. Workers were challenged by both local council representatives and representatives from the Erimitis Plus association (responsible for the ‘Save Erimitis’ campaign) and, apparently, no permits were produced. This has enraged the opposition and worried us all. At the request of a number of people I wrote another letter, on 31/1/21, to the Geek Prime Minister, which I am told on good authority he will see. There is just a slight sense that attitudes in Athens may be changing and my letter is designed to encourage that. It is appended below. It seems it is all still to play for, although the visit of the Greek PM in July was undoubtedly a blow.
Dear Prime Minister,
As you can see below, I have written to you twice before regarding Erimitis in Corfu. You were good enough to ask Maria Diamanti to look into the project.
Since my last letter in February 2020, you have yourself visited the site. You saw first-hand the strength of local opposition to the project, and you will have appreciated what a glorious, wild and unspoilt place it is. In addition to the continued local opposition, there are a number of court judgments still outstanding, so I was amazed to hear that this week bulldozers have just started to do some digging and clearing on the site, which I doubt very much is a legal action.
The developers, NCH, have also announced that they wish to build a marina after all--despite having dropped this part of their plan which is particularly damaging to the environment and the natural habitat.
The purpose of this letter is simply to reiterate my earnest plea that your government insists that their plan is completely redrawn, in favour of a plan (from them or another investor) that does not desecrate the area and which totally respects the ambience of that lovely bay and protects the wildlife and vegetation there.
I recognise that you, and your government, wish to encourage foreign investment. However, I am sure you will also agree that, partly as a result of the terrible global pandemic, attitudes to investment and economic growth are changing very rapidly. Companies and investors, all over the world, are realising - or have been forced to accept - that social responsibility is as important as profit. What seemed acceptable back in 2013, when the investment was first initiated, is simply not acceptable to public opinion now.
If the Greek government continues to support this terrible project, it is flying in the face of public opinion the world over. Far from encouraging foreign investment, if this plan proceeds unchanged, investors will take their money to countries that are seen to be truly protective of their natural assets. Greece has some of the most wonderful natural assets in the world and so it is particularly important that you are seen to be looking after them for future generations.
The monstrosity that is planned for Erimitis will discourage tourism in North Corfu (as the local Mayor recognises) and will discourage investment in Greece as a whole.
Personally, after 40 years in business and banking, I am astonished by how far and how quickly attitudes have changed. We live in a different world now, driven very much by the young, where life is not just about economic progress. We are all judged by how seriously we take our social responsibilities, particularly including our attitudes to the environment. In the last year the pace of this change in attitudes has accelerated.
It is still not too late for your government to show you care about your social responsibilities, and about the unspoilt environment at Erimitis. Please do what is right, and you will find you get a very warm positive reaction from people, governments, and investors everywhere.
Johnny Cameron. Chairman, Corfu Owners Association.
From Enimerosi (mid January) re waste management.
With a limited number of people and in what was described as a positive atmosphere, exploratory discussions began on Thursday morning between the Regional Authority and SYDISA.
According to reliable sources, the Deputy Regional Governor for Finance & Culture, Katerina Mothonaiou, played the role of mediator, getting the opponents to sit round the table together and asking, "Why all the hate and strife?" The table in this case was that of the Regional Governor in her large office in Alykes.
Nothing very newsworthy came out of the meeting except perhaps that both sides were more amenable and differences bridged. But only as far as that could go, say those in the know, as each side stuck to their positions as regards the tender for the waste management facility in Corfu.
The Regional Authority maintains that it will soon put out the invitation for tender with the amended and approved documents which, however, are not in its lawful possession (?). This is because Corfu SYDISA (Solid Waste Management Association) has decided not to give them to the Regional FODSA. Naturally, with the documents going back and forth to Athens, the 'other side' has copies. Apart from that, of course, the request from lawmakers that SYDISA be disbanded and to hand over responsibility to the Regional FODSA also includes the responsibility of the tender documents. However, the legality of this is in doubt and the case may have to go to the Council of State where, whoever wins, the likelihood of the facility not materialising becomes greater!
The outgoing SYDISA believes that it can delay its disbandment and given the fact that the Regional FODSA has only recently been formed and has the obligation to proceed with the project in Cephalonia, the Corfu Association could be the ones issuing the invitation for tender for the facility in Temploni.
Bearing all that in mind, Meropi Ydraiou, Yiannis Seremetis, Nikos Kalogeros and Chrysanthis Sarlis visited the Regional Authority offices yesterday. They remained there and continued the discussion with Mr Ioannou, even when Ms Kratsa had to leave for the airport to travel to Athens (it is said that she will meet with the Governor of the Bank of Greece, Mr Stournaras).
The other Mayors were not present at the meeting, either because they weren't invited or didn't want to come. In any case, they weren't there even though the matter of the transportation of the waste from Corfu still needs to be resolved as does the matter of the waste bales, which are of importance to all of us on the island.
As Spyros Neratzis complains, each delay in proceeding with the project all together means thousands of tons of waste aren't being transported. He stated that the way things are now the only available solution is to use Temploni as a transfer plant until the other facilities are constructed. (This is how Temploni has become Corfu's rubbish dump until something else is constructed, which never happens and so Temploni is always the only facility available).
In any case, Thursday's meeting took place in a positive atmosphere and was, for sure, the first of many that will follow.
It is still not clear where things went wrong. All the indications are that the Government wants to proceed urgently and there are strict deadlines in the Programme for the work to be completed by 2023.
Reference is also made in the discussions to the 'European option', which, it is said will make things easier. The involvement of private companies in funding and co-ownership is also being discussed. We still await clarification, however.
From Enimerosi, c. 19th January
Discussion on waste management, organised by the Base Group of the Municipality of MERA25, on Sunday 17/01/21, following the visit of the secretary of MERA25, G Varoufakis, to the Temploni landfill last summer. In an announcement, Petros Papageorgiou, Coordinator of OBK Corfu stated the following:
"In the discussion attended by the members of MERA25 Corfu, participating as guests were Gerasimos Lymperatos, professor of NTUA and chairman of the Municipal Council of Halandri, who is a pioneer in organic waste management, businessman and founder member of the Corfu Compost Project and Petros Grigoriou, Physicist and President of the Corfu Waste Management Observatory - Waste Watch Corfu.
The discussion presented, among other things, the absolutely successful management model of the Municipality of Halandri, by Dr Gerasimos Lymperatos, President of the Municipal Council of Halandri and Professor of NTUA, the organisation of a composting effort by Christos Markos, businessman and member of the Corfu Compost Project team and the general situation of waste management on our island at the moment by Petros Grigoriou, Professor of Physics and President of the Corfu Waste Management Observatory.
Once again, we confirmed that Corfu has reached below zero. The health of the island's inhabitants is threatened every day and the proposed solutions are far from being environmentally friendly and efficient.
The position of MERA25:
Sorting at source and decentralised management. Informing the citizens, organising the management structures and political will to see waste not as a "problem" but as an "opportunity for development."
(Petros Papageorgiou, Coordinator of OBΚ Corfu)