NEWS

Plan for a cooler city

The damage wreaked on Mount Parnitha will have disastrous consequences for the air quality and temperatures in Athens unless crucial countermeasures are implemented, scientists and environmentalists told a press conference yesterday. Until last month’s fire, Parnitha had functioned as the capital’s air conditioner, offsetting the heat emitted by some 2.5 million cars in Attica, experts said. «It is as if the number of cars in Athens doubled,» said Athens University professor Matthaios Santamouris. «The climate of our city will change.» Santamouris, other academics and representatives of Greenpeace and WWF Hellas urged citizens to leave their cars at home and use public transport more often. They also proposed the extension of rail-based public transport networks. «If we curb the heat emitted by vehicles we may be able to win back part of what we lost on Parnitha,» Santamouris said. Also high on the list of proposed countermeasures was the preservation of parts of the city that have not been built up. «No more new structures should be built in Athens. We don’t need any more, we can reuse existing buildings,» said Yiannis Polyzos, vice president of the National Technical University of Athens and president of the Urban Environment Laboratory. According to Polyzos, the undeveloped expanses of land in Athens have a surface area roughly equal to the 4,200-acre expanse of forestland burnt on Mount Parnitha. The creation of more parks would also help, he said. Another measure that could bring down the temperature in the capital by at least a couple of degrees, according to experts, is the replacement of standard tiles on rooftops with special tiles that repel heat. Painting tiles a «cool» color like green was also suggested. The public sector needs to set the example here, experts agreed. An equally beneficial effect can be achieved if the same principle is applied to roads and sidewalks. Environmentalists also urged authorities to adopt a European Union directive on the energy efficiency of buildings. Most Athens buildings do not repel heat effectively while also spewing more heat into the atmosphere due to excessive use of air conditioners.