NEWS

Dud transport, energy projects

Transport, energy: Shortly before the 2002 municipal elections, Bakoyannis stated that her top priorities included the creation of parking garages, and the use of ecological buses and alternative energy sources. Another, lower priority was to launch a well-organized urban parking plan. Three years down the line, the City of Athens has little progress to show on any of these fronts. Athens does not participate in any European pilot programs for hybrid buses or for hydrogen-powered cars, municipal services did not upgrade their fleet of vehicles to hybrid cars that pollute much less than regular cars, no experiments were conducted into the potential of photovoltaic systems for solar energy, and last, but not least, no buildings were modernized to fit modern energy-saving methods. Furthermore, the City of Athens has no controlled parking system, despite the fact that February 2006 had been set as the date for this program to be put into effect. Rubbish: Bakoyannis launched the Clean Alliance initiative, a four-year program (2004-2008) aimed at making the city cleaner. Sinking 34 million euros into the program (the largest amount ever invested in the capital’s sanitation), the City of Athens purchased 235 new trash collection vehicles, created 20 percent more collection routes and hired 500 more garbage collectors for the Olympic Games period. The city during that period was certainly cleaner. However, when a sum such as this is involved one would expect to see a more forward-looking project than one that relies mainly on improving an antiquated trash collection system. The separation and recycling of rubbish at source, a measure that has been applied in most European capitals for years now, is being approached in Athens as something that is mainly worth looking into through pilot programs. This would merely render it part of the campaign platform for the next administration’s time in office. City’s buildings: A dash of color was introduced into the lives of Athenians as the City of Athens went about improving some 3,000 buildings, which had their facades reconstructed and painted in cheery colors. Most of the visible progress was made in several historic public squares, where the buildings’ owners had more tangible motivations for improvement, which was done in cooperation with building companies who were also sponsors of the modernization. In sum, however, the number of buildings that benefited from the program remains low. Furthermore, the municipal authorities showed little interest in defending the cultural and architectural heritage of the Greek capital. Thousands of buildings of interest, of all ages, are under threat of collapse or, just as bad, of being sold off for apartment blocks. The most glaring example is City Hall’s involvement in the demolition of most of the historic «refugee» apartment blocks on Alexandras Avenue abutting Police Headquarters.