Athens, despite its long history, has to be in my opinion, one of the dirtiest and most run-down cities I have ever been to. And this is not because of the economic crisis, but rather due to its rapid disorganised growth.
When one considers that it’s population has gone from roughly 4,000 people in 1833 to today’s estimated population of 3.8 million, with little pre-thought or planning, it is not surprising that the city has become one large metropolitan city, with little regard for anything other than concrete multi-storey apartment blocks and offices.
Add to the city the figure of some 2 million cars [not counting the ever increasing number of motor bikes], Athens has the highest car ownership per capita in the entire European Union. One has a serious problem with not only pollution, but also the heavy use of the roads and the lack of proper maintenance.
Despite the economic crisis, or maybe because of it, thinks appear to be changing.
The EU-funded Rethink Athens Project, which cost 92 million euros, will include planting trees and barring traffic from a thoroughfare linking Syntagma and Omonia Square, two kilometers to the north. The project, scheduled for completion by 2016, will also feature a tram-line extension, creating a direct link between the Acropolis Museum, the National Archaeological Museum and developments along the seafront. [see the promo images and video below]
Chinese and Qatari investors are involved in the Lamda Development SA consortium, have won the contract to redevelop the old Athens International Airport. A British investment company has acquired a 90% interest in the Astir Palace Vouliagmenis luxury resort.
The 500 million euro investment by these two, will see the beginning of the transformation of Athens. But this, in my opinion, is only a small stepping stone. Athens needs billions invested not only in greening the city and easing the flow of traffic, but also in the long-overdue maintenance of its roads and transport infrastructure.
And this can only help in not only making Athens a truly modern city, but also reduce its high pollution problem which is slowly deteriorating its ancient historical monuments like the Parthenon.