OPINION

Pollution

Recent scientific measurements showing an alarming level in the concentration of suspended particles in the Athens atmosphere will probably pass unnoticed. In a big city with a serious problem of photochemical and atmospheric pollution that endangers the citizens’ quality of life and health, and which is detrimental to its tourism (but still a problem that is overlooked except when there is need for emergency traffic regulations), one has little hope that the alarming conclusions will draw a prompt reaction. However, if the measurements are accurate and the scientific conclusions correct, the excessive concentration of suspended particles in the atmosphere can, in the long term, undermine the health of the capital’s residents while certainly downgrading their quality of life. Indeed, this should be a major issue for the authorities and the public monitoring bodies, from the Parliament to the media. Instead, we pass over the issue in silence, perhaps because we are used to living in a polluted environment. And because we are used to living with pollution, we fail to take notice of its significant increase resulting from Olympic-related projects, next to the familiar parameters such as diesel-fueled vehicles and industrial pollution. Scientific studies leave no doubt that the excessive concentration of suspended particles in the Athens sky is directly linked to the soil, dust and particles that are released into the air from the plethora of excavations and projects ahead of the 2004 Games. This proves that on top of the absence of any plans to reinforce the banks of the flood-prone Kifissos River, neither were there any plans to prevent atmospheric pollution from the continuous excavations (which may also be responsible for the recent smell in Athens’s southern areas). Even if the outcome remains unchanged, it is better that the lack of countermeasures is due to lack of foresight than to any a decision to suppress it. However, the former explanation seems unlikely, as often in the past the government chose to let time pass in order to force emergency measures that give it a free hand to make direct assignments and to conduct expropriations with summary procedures. Being used to the smog, we must not get used to these new causes of pollution. Above all, we must not accept as unavoidable the acceleration of various state priorities that pay no heed to the health and living standards of the average citizen.