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Wed Jul 10, 2024, 09:15 AM Jul 10

In Record Heat, Athens Mayor Works To Permanently Expand Tree Planting, Water Access, Public Cooling Centers

Trees, cooling centres, water stations. All three are on Haris Doukas’s mind as he sits in his office-turned-control centre on the top floor of city hall. Barely six months into the job, the mayor of Athens’s top priority is simple: ensuring that the people of Greece’s capital – mainland Europe’s hottest metropolis – survive the summer. After a June that was the hottest on record, the city has already witnessed record-breaking temperatures and wildfires.

“In any place tackling such extreme weather phenomena would be difficult,” says Doukas. “In a city of seven hills and such dense urban development it’s especially complex.” Which is why Doukas is so preoccupied with the planting of trees. “A green neighbourhood can experience a drop in temperatures of 5%, the difference between a tortuous day in a heat wave or not,” says the mayor, who was a political unknown teaching energy policy at Athens’ Polytechnic before being fielded for the post by the social democrat Pasok party.

“It’s not a matter of lifestyle, or improving the quality of life; it’s about survival when 23% of the green lung around Athens has in recent years been destroyed by fires. It’s vital we have more trees, more air-conditioned community centres and more water stations on our streets and squares.”


Such steps are a world away from the youth of Efi Petropoulou and Rena Papadaki, retirees for whom memories of Attica’s once famously dry climate are still vivid. “The atmosphere in Athens has really changed,” says Petropoulou. “It’s so heavy and humid and it’s definitely got a lot hotter. Before you’d cope by closing the shutters and putting on the fan. Now it’s impossible without air-conditioning.” “And who’d have thought we’d come to this?” her friend, Papadaki, chips in, pointing to the air conditioning unit at the neighbourhood “friendship club” where the two septuagenarians convene daily.



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