One pensioner’s single-handed battle against bureaucracy to help improve city environment

Green roofs have passed every test with flying colors in several foreign capitals, but in Athens they can be counted on the fingers of one hand. A retired Athenian jeweler, 81-year-old Aristomenis Bolotas, decided to take up the cause, trying to fight a system that raises obstacles to the spread of such roofs, which have been shown to lower temperatures and raise oxygen levels in the atmosphere, among other benefits. Bolotas has been waging a persistent war against the country’s notorious bureaucracy. «You need to put relentless pressure on those in charge,» he told Kathimerini. «I used to call the office of the environment and public works general secretary every second day, asking for an appointment. I used to joke with his secretary that I’d call her every day just to say hello. I finally got the appointment and talked to the general secretary, Evangelos Baltas. I also went to my own own local mayor of Aghioi Anargyroi and asked him to start a pilot program. After months of pestering him, the mayor was convinced and recently told me that the town hall roof would be converted to a green roof,» said Bolotas. «I also went to the town-planning authorities over an illegally built wall. They told me to submit an application. I replied that not only would I submit an application, but I’d be in their office every day until the wall was torn down. I went there 67 times and the wall was eventually demolished. If I hadn’t become a nuisance, probably nothing would have been done. That is why I say we citizens must exert pressure on the authorities; otherwise, we will keep hearing the same old excuses.» Bolotas has written a memorandum on the subject of green roofs, explaining the benefits to be gained for the environment and quality of life. He has sent it to 22 municipalities, to ministries and other organizations such as the Hellenic Bank Association and the School Buildings Organization. «I called on all those in charge in person. I am always on the phone making appointments, pursuing my plan systematically. Of course most of them make excuses, saying they are inundated with work, but I don’t give up and that’s what I recommend to anyone interested in the common good and wanting to be active citizens. They shouldn’t give up, but should press their claims with persistence and, above all, they should not be afraid of being a nuisance.» Bolotas is also publisher of a newspaper, Active Citizens, and in tune with the times is setting up his own website to take advantage of the huge possibilities afforded by the Internet. «When I was a teenager during the occupation, I was a founding member of the Union of Young Militants of Roumeli, in Lamia; now I’m on the Internet. Time marches on, things change. Modern information technology provides really amazing opportunities. Although I am, at least for the time being, digitally illiterate, I believe in the power of the medium and hope that my site will soon be under way, helping in the effort to mobilize other people and play a part in protecting the environment. The more we fight for the cause, the better results we will have.»