The streets of Zakynthos are filled with garbage, as local authority tries to bury municipal waste in landfill illegally operating within the sea turtle Caretta caretta national park and ignores the need for a new and safe sanitary waste disposal site. 

Zakynthos is a popular tourist destination in Greece with thousands of tourists arriving to enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches of the Ionian Sea island. These same beaches also host the most important nesting sites of the Loggerhead turtle in the Mediterranean. The nesting season of the turtles has just begun. This is Zakynthos’ prime season, but this year the situation is bleak. 

For the past several months the island has been faced with an unprecedented crisis. Piles of municipal waste have been accumulated in the streets. No solutions has been given to the island’s waste management, since the European Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that the old landfill located within the National Marine Park of Zakynthos that malfunctioned but continued to operate since 2006 was illegal. Indeed, while the old landfill has been officially closed since 2014, it has continued to operate illegally. 

The illegal and polluting landfill overlooks the sea turtle nesting beaches of the National Marine Park of Zakynthos

 

The waste accumulated in the streets constitutes a health bomb waiting to erupt, making the everyday life of locals very difficult. With the patience of locals quickly evaporating and the shocked expressions of tourists increasing with every cruise ship and flight arriving on the island, there is no doubt that a viable solution must be found. 

 

Piles of  garbage in the streets of Zakynthos town

The waste disposal site preferred by the Municipality and relevant authorities is raising concerns for the island’s natural treasure: the very beaches that attract tourists and sea turtles every year. Waste packaging machinery has been placed in the illegal landfill, within the National Marine Park of Zakynthos. No permits have been secured to date and it is unlikely that they will be secured, given that the landfill is placed within a zone of the Park where such actions are clearly not permitted. No consideration has been made of the damage that a potential collapse of the area could have on the beaches: this scenario is not unlikely, as the illegal landfill is considered saturated since 2006. Moreover, the claimed temporary transfer of waste to the old landfill site can lead to its renewed operation. Local authorities operate as if nothing has happened; as if there has been no conviction at the ECJ; as if the National Marine Park is not there; as if a permanent waste management solution had not been selected and required permits had not been granted; as if alternative intermediate solutions had not been approved. 

Just last week the European Commission opened a new infringement procedure, which can lead Greece back to the European Court of Justice and risks a heavy financial penalty for not complying with the Court’s previous decisions. 

Greek conservation organisations, ARCHELON, MEDASSET, MOm, and WWF Greece today issued an urgent press release asking responsible authorities to act appropriately and legally in order for the devastating fiasco of Zakynthos waste problem to be solved immediately. 

Notes to editors:

Contact information

  • Ioli Christopoulou, WWF Greece Nature Policy Officer, WWF Greece, +30-2103314893
  • Panagiota Theodorou, Conservation Coordinator, ARCHELON, +30 6940470194

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