Cramped housing squeezes out trees

Although Athens is a European city, the ration of free public space is more reminiscent of underdeveloped capitals. In Bonn the ratio of greenery per resident stands at 35 square meters and in Amsterdam it is 27, while London has nine square meters of park area for every inhabitant. At the same time Athens, our beloved capital, has a mere 2.5 square meters of trees per resident. The Greek capital has 7,000 hectares of park areas – that is without the mountain forests which have been destroyed by the annual fires. Some trees can be seen struggling to grow between slabs of cement, next to parked cars and garbage containers. But even these small and rare trees are under serious threat. Studies show that some 3,000 trees are lost every year as drivers desperately seek out parking space along the streets of the capital or looking to exploit every last inch of space for their new house. We must all understand that the construction frenzy of recent years and the chronic negligence of state officials have made Athens an intolerable city. The Attica basin, which hosts 40 percent of the Greek population, needs to quadruple its number of trees. Far from saving the few remaining ones in the streets of the capital, the state must take drastic measures to increase the dwindling park areas. In a few months, Greeks will vote in local elections. One of the major obligations of the mayoral candidates in the Attica basin should be to outline the measures they intend to take in order to reverse this bad urban trend. The big park area in place of the old airport at Hellenikon that is being planned by the conservative government will improve things, but only marginally. Athens is in dire need of green space and politicians running in the local elections must commit themselves to that.