Bitter orange tree battle

Athenians living in part of the city center are up in arms at the municipality’s decision to uproot the bitter orange trees planted along Kanari Street. «They almost threw us out of the municipal council meeting,» said Zoi Karapanayioti, of the Lycabettus Association, who has led a campaign by residents on the street who banded together in February after bulldozers moved in to clear away the trees that had been there for decades so as to widen the sidewalks. Their protests were in vain – the trees are now gone from the corner of Academias Street to Kolonaki Square, replaced by Brachychitons from New Zealand. Some experts say that this imported species, already planted in other parts of Athens, is not suitable for the environment here as it cannot withstand very high or very low temperatures or air pollution. «That is not correct,» Deputy Mayor Angelos Moschonas told Kathimerini. «This particular tree has been chosen because it is considered suitable. Where was everyone when we were planting them on Stadiou Street? The important thing is that the amount of greenery is not being reduced. In any case, the work is not finished yet.» Costas Tatsis, an agronomist and head of the Panhellenic Association of Parks Contractors, says trees are only planted in Athens when others are uprooted. «If they wanted to plant Brachychitons, there were plenty of other places to do it,» he said. The original design for widening the sidewalk in 2006 made no mention of uprooting any trees but, according to a reply from the municipality to Karapanayioti, it is not a question of cutting down trees, just replacing them and improving them. «What was wrong with them?» asked Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Deputy Anna Filini, who was in favor of keeping the bitter orange trees. «They are attractive all year round, whether in flower or in fruit, and they are part of Athens’s image. I’m sure that even shopkeepers who are newcomers to the area who didn’t want them will soon change their minds.»

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