Poor infrastructure biting back

Poor infrastructure biting back

The sight of storm drains spewing out water like so many unwanted geysers during heavy rainfall is not the result of climate change. Nor is it the first time that this sorry state of affairs has been officially noted. “The image of storm drains that hadn’t been cleaned and caused problems in many parts of Athens was really disappointing,” Alternate Interior Minister Stelios Petsas commented in the wake of Thursday’s downpours.

Scientists warn that such unsettled weather will only become more frequent and if we add the problem of abandoned storm drains and culverts, the destructive consequences will keep rising.

Any crisis – be it environmental, financial or social – says a lot about people. And now that the chapter titled “climate” has opened for good, one of the most persistent shortcomings of successive Greek politicians has come to the fore, and with a vengeance, in one area at least: infrastructure.

For decades, it had been imperative for any politician’s album to include dozens of photographs from worksites, groundbreaking and ribbon cutting, because this, it was believed, cultivated the impression of a politician hard at work, and brought popularity and votes. Few, however, took the time out of their busy schedule of grandstanding to see whether the pipes below the storm drains were working properly, to check whether culverts were even cleared regularly. Disaster invariably struck and these tasks were forgotten about again until the next disaster.

Governments, regional authorities and municipalities (with just a few exceptions) were interested first and foremost in their image – and they still are. Who can forget the “inauguration” of the Thessaloniki metro in 2018-19 with a train that was nothing short of a prop?

And speaking of the northern port city, a bus fell into a massive sinkhole in the middle of a major thoroughfare the other day. It was clearly the result of failings in the road’s construction – another glorious moment for Greece’s infrastructure. 

The roll of film, however, is running out – if it hasn’t already – and the climate crisis that has come barging through our doors is also exposing all sorts of sins, all sorts of performances lacking any real content.

Decades of neglect and shoddy infrastructure building are now coming back to bite us and this cannot be rectified with a few wishes and promises.

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