All concrete, no trees_ Athens ill-prepared for heatwaves

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The mercury is anticipated to soar once more with highs of 40 levels Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) forecast for this weekend.

A densely-populated concrete jungle missing in inexperienced area, Athens has change into one among Europe’s hottest capitals and regardless of its vulnerability to excessive temperatures, has didn’t make environmental improvements, consultants warn.

Residents and guests have sweated by means of a scorching week within the Greek capital, solely discovering respite on cafe terraces within the night.

And the mercury is anticipated to soar once more with highs of 40 levels Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) forecast for this weekend, prompting authorities to partially shut the Acropolis and a few main parks.

In 2007, the greater than three million residents of town skilled a document excessive 44.8C.

“With the concrete and the tarmac, cities change into warmth islands. In Athens there are only a few inexperienced areas to decrease temperatures,” Kostas Lagouvardos, analysis director for the Institute for Environmental Analysis and Nationwide Observatory of Athens, instructed AFP.

“And the forests that encompass town are disappearing as a consequence of wildfires.”

Regardless of being flanked by hills and rivers, Athens is overrun by concrete buildings.

From the highest of the Acropolis, the view of town is an limitless sprawl of buildings and homes, interrupted by a uncommon inexperienced patch.

Central Athens is the second most densely populated space in Europe after Paris, in accordance with Eurostat.

Regardless of being flanked by hills and rivers, Athens is overrun by concrete buildings.

Building in every single place

“In Greece, development is occurring on a regular basis and in every single place! It is the most important downside,” mentioned city planner Aris Kalandides.

In response to the World Wildlife Fund, there may be solely 0.96 sq. meters of inexperienced area per resident in Athens, which falls far in need of the World Well being Group’s advice of 9 sq. meters per capita.

With solely 11 % of its floor space coated by bushes, Athens is close to the underside of the record in comparison with different European capitals, in accordance with the European Atmosphere Company.

“There may be hardly any countryside left round Athens, the suburbs are nibbling away and destroying all the pieces. Financial pursuits are taking precedence over the necessity for inexperienced area,” mentioned Kalandides.

The shortage of a method and political will look like the principle roadblocks to reversing the pattern, in accordance with specialists.

In 2021, Athens appointed its first local weather tsar accountable for implementing a method to adapt infrastructure and conduct to local weather change.

The appointment got here with almost 5 million euros in funding from the European Funding Financial institution (EIB).

“The city cloth of Athens is made up of dense buildings that cowl 80 % of town’s floor space. All this tarmac and cement retains warmth throughout heatwaves,” the EIB mentioned in its report.

Tasks launched since embrace three “inexperienced corridors” within the metropolis and improved water administration on town’s highest peak, Lycabettus.

Wildfires close to Athens.

Bushes sacrificed

However some present urbanization initiatives have rubbed up towards environmental targets.

Dozens of bushes have been lower to construct new metro stations and an enormous housing complicated is about to be constructed on the grounds of the previous Ellinikon airport.

And a “grand promenade” deliberate for central Athens, with bushes and benches, has been a constructing website for 3 years.

“There’s a lack of political planning and engagement from the complete inhabitants,” mentioned Iris Lykourioti, an structure professor on the College of Thessaly.

“We’re in a interval when funding insurance policies take priority over environmental safety,” she mentioned.

The legacy of Greece’s financial disaster continues to be being felt, she warned.

“Finances cuts haven’t solely restricted public companies, however the help plans (by Greece’s collectors) paved the way in which to the exploitation of (EU acknowledged) Natura safety areas” throughout the nation, she mentioned.

© 2023 AFP