Athens parks are dwindling

Festivities will be held around Europe today, marking the occasion of European Day of Parks. However, no events are scheduled for Athens, which, recent data show, offers its residents the smallest amount of green areas in Europe. According to the European Environment Agency, the city offers just 2 square meters of park area per resident. Town-planning trends in the capital are a cause for further alarm as the figure shrank from 2.5 square meters during the 1984-2000 period. In Amsterdam there are 57 square meters of green space for each person, while in Paris, London and Rome the figure is 9 square meters – the minimum for livability, according to the World Health Organization. Another indication of the gap that separates Athens from other European cities is the area covered by the city’s largest parks. Ten of Athens’s largest parks cover a total area of 400 hectares while London’s Hyde Park alone is 250 hectares. «What has saved Athens up until today is that the hills have not been built on as well as the park areas that had been created previously, such as Lycabettus Hill and the National Gardens,» said architect and town planner Irini Frezadou-Tripodakis. The National Gardens, next to Zappeion Hall in central Athens, were formed in 1862 while Pedion tou Areos was designed in 1934. «Even the First Cemetery helps the area’s climate and generally all of the capital,» she added. The 2004 Olympics provided officials with the ideal chance to help change the green map of Athens but it was an opportunity that got away, according to Frezadou-Tripodakis. «We had the chance to reclaim the Faliron beach area, open up the city toward the beach and to create more green areas. Instead, we blocked off the city’s beachfront for good. That was a real crime,» she added.