NEWS

The National Gardens are to be handed over to the Municipality of Athens for 90 years

Ten million euros, several hundred cubic meters of water and a political decision for a special code in the state budget to subsidize maintenance and development of the National Gardens are some of the aims Athens Municipality has to restore the area to its former prestige. The municipality is due to take over responsibility for the gardens soon. An Interior Ministry bill to be presented to Parliament in early September provides for the gardens to be handed over for 90 years to the municipality, which will be obliged to maintain them «at its own expense and on its own responsibility,» maintaining and improving vegetation, protecting the gardens and «preserving the integrity of their woodland character.» The 40 employees of the gardens will come under the municipality, with their wages being paid by the ministry. The city wants a special budget code for funds to maintain and improve the gardens. An estimated 1 million euros a year is needed, and 10 million for a five-year development program. The funds would also cover the planting of new trees – since not one has been planted in the past 25 years – and refurbishment of nurseries and the botany museum. The municipality has already planted 12,000 annuals and allocated 30 workers to clean the gardens and city police to guard it. The most urgent problem is irrigation, which requires 800-1,000 cubic meters of water a day, which cannot be guaranteed either from the present EYDAP water utility or from five bores that will start operating soon. Even in their present state, the National Gardens attract crowds (5-5,500 a day; and 15,000 during the Olympic Games).