There are solutions to make our cities better

The solution to Greece’s urban mess is simple – as many examples abroad show. All it takes is guts and action. In view of next month’s local elections, six experts spoke to Kathimerini about ways of bringing about prompt and drastic improvements to life in big cities. Inevitably their comments focused on Athens and Thessaloniki, two overgrown conurbations that are home to more than half the population of Greece and 60 percent of the automobiles; cities that have less than 3 square meters of green space per inhabitant, compared to 15 square meters in other large European cities. The overpopulation of those two cities has a knock-on effect, creating infrastructure problems, and not just on the main roads. One blatant instance is waste management: Every day, 6,500 tons of waste is generated in Athens and 1,500 tons in Thessaloniki, and this ends up in already overflowing landfills, causing problems with the cleanliness of public spaces. Other issues include rising crime, the drug and sex trades and illegal immigration. In some areas, as in much of the capital’s city center, matters are out of control. Is there any hope of reversing this trend? Urban life specialists say there is, noting the need for local government to disengage from the habit of merely transacting business and acting without vision. For instance, architect and town planner Rania Kloutsinioti suggests focusing on neighborhoods in order to directly upgrade quality of life. Architect Andreas Kourkoulas proposes a sprucing up of public spaces, Manos Biris, a professor emeritus of architecture, calls for more clarity in zoning laws, and civil engineer Christina Theoharis concentrates on waste management.

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