NEWS

Racket, exhaust fumes and light, night and day

«I used to think it was unlucky that I couldn’t see the Kifissos River because there was an apartment block in the way. Now I think I’m lucky because at least the noise and light from the street won’t come directly into my bedroom,» a local resident told Kathimerini. The State had been planning to extend the Athens-Lamia highway down to the sea front for the past 30 years, but every time the project looked like getting off the ground, protests from local residents brought it to a halt. When Athens undertook to host the 2004 Olympic Games, it seemed an ideal opportunity to go ahead with the project, and without legal objections. Citizens’ movements did lodge appeals against the plan to the Council of State and the European Commission, but with no result. An environmental study by the office of Zekkou-Kaloudioti indicates some of the problems facing residents and workers in the area, particularly in the first few hundred meters from the shore. The study evaluated the consequences of the original plan for two lanes in each direction, and not for the road as it is currently being built, with three lanes (as well as an auxiliary lane) in each direction. The report foresees multiple consequences: – Noise pollution: The upper permissible limit is 70 decibels, but the report predicts levels of 79-81 decibels (should there be only two lanes going each way). Given that the noise is measured on a logarithmic scale, the increase is not just 9-11 units. For every three units of increase, the sound diffused into the air is doubled. The fact that the road will be elevated makes matters worse. As a representative of Zekkou-Kaloudioti told Kathimerini: «If that wasn’t the case, church bells would be positioned low down.» – Air pollution: The effect of thousands of passing cars is not in question. – Light pollution: Street lighting, combined with the headlights of moving vehicles, at the same level of apartment balconies will force residents to keep their windows tightly shut, winter and summer. The report notes a number of other issues, such as the fact that apartments below the third floor will probably be permanently in the shadow of the new road, as will that part of the river that is at risk of becoming a sunless drain and source of infection. Lastly, there will be effects on the local microclimate. In place of a riverbed, there will be a massive road which, especially in summer, will absorb vast amounts of heat by day and then emit it back into the environment in the evening, significantly raising the temperature in the area. Prefect’s demands Following mobilization by residents, Piraeus Prefect Yiannis Michas intervened. On November 19, he wrote to Environment Minister Vasso Papandreou about «the serious effects the highway will have on the environment and the residents’ quality of life.» In his letter he asked for: – The construction of sound barriers on the elevated section of the highway. – Special sound-absorbing road surfaces. – Proper traffic regulation in the area so as to avoid traffic congestion. – Continual monitoring of exhaust fumes and noise pollution. – Special lighting to limit light pollution in nearby residences. – Subsidies for local residents and businesspeople to install double-glazed windows and air conditioners.