Living in Thessaloniki of 2017

Today more than two thirds of Greeks live in towns and cities. Urban areas concentrate most on the environmental challenges facing the society. Thessaloniki, the second larger city of Greece has lost the green battle. The green areas cover a tiny percentage of the total surface area of its region.  It is indicative that according to the 2005 figures, the green area per inhabitant in Thessaloniki was 5.04 square meters (internationally accepted limit of 9)1, while in 2016 the reduction recorded by the Green European Settlement Map gave 3.05 square meters of green areas per inhabitant2.

The Regulatory Plan of Thessaloniki was instituted in 19853, which also provided for the establishment of the Thessaloniki Regulatory Agency. The Thessaloniki Regulatory Plan was drafted without even establishing City Control Areas and since 2002 there has been no design, until a new law4 passed for new regulatory city and zoning permits. With the new law, one might think that new regulatory avant-garde planning for urban sustainability was assured. Regrettably, the construction agglomeration developed anarchically without any substantial land use control, and turned into a bulk of cement, mortgaging the future of the city and its population. Urban planning was never even an issue and was sacrificed at the altar of profit in the ‘splendors’ of construction.  Buildings were arbitrarily swarming and ultimately even after the sea was filled up and private plots were created and buildings were constructed on them, the citizens began to complain about the lack of infrastructure, services and operation of the urban complex.  Consequently owing to the uncontrolled construction situation, most of the areas of Thessaloniki were asphyxiating with unprotected environment and much less green. The Thessaloniki Regulatory Agency’s role was to envision and create the spatial and urban planning of the city and the wider region of Thessaloniki. Specifically with Thessaloniki’s emergence as a cultural capital of Europe in 1997, important studies, designs and competitions completed during this period.  Between the years 2002-2010, the regulatory agency of Thessaloniki, in collaboration with Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, completed a detailed strategic plan for sustainable development of Thessaloniki5.This strategic operational plan for the green in Thessaloniki was the very first extensive, detailed and multifaceted proposal.  With the exception of the redevelopment of Nea Paralia, under the responsibility of the Municipality of Thessaloniki, which led to the implementation of the Nea Paralia Linear Park (started in 2008 and completed in 2013), with a length of 2,550 m in an area of 16,7 hectares, no other great designs were realized6.

The urban chaos is the result of the major Greek problem, «the six fold problem of all the Greek governments», which comprises of inconsistency, anarchy, clientelism, bribery, corruption, and near-slightness.  Numerous laws, regulations and exceptions lead to infinite applications in many agencies and ultimately to arbitrariness and corruption. Even the best administration is impossible to produce without a functioning state. In Greece, reservations about the environment and antiquities are combined with a labyrinth of laws, and antagonistic political ideologies. Regardless of the efforts of the Regulatory Agency to implement innovative urban and environmental projects on the city of Thessaloniki, lawlessness prevailed. Failing to improve the quality of life, protecting the natural environment, failing to force the new design of a viable transport system and ultimately degrading the neighborhoods, the government decided by Presidential Decree to end its existence7 and established a new Regulatory Agency for Attica and Thessaloniki Regions, in Athens. In our days the development of spatial planning policy for the two metropolitan areas of Greece is the responsibility of the pertinent Ministry, namely the Directorate for the Design of Metropolitan Urban and Peripheral Areas (DMUPA), which was recently established in the Ministry of Environment and Energy. The same year, the government passed a new law8, which plans to rehabilitate the cities of Greece including the city of Thessaloniki. The city of Thessaloniki today is 77% covered of buildings, 19% of asphalt roads and only 4% of green and free spaces. Open areas and green areas have fallen by 20% since 1979. Thessaloniki is dying…

Bibliography

1 http://www.greenspaces.gr/

2 http://voria.gr/article/i-thilakes-tis-ipovathmisis-ke-ta-provlimata-tis-thessalonikis-chartes

3 Law 1561/1986 in Pdf 1

4 Law 3010/2002 in Pdf 2

5 Detailed strategic plan for sustainable development of Thessaloniki in Pdf 3

6 https://www.thessalonikiguide.gr/place/nea-paralia/

7 Presidential decree No. 100/ article 31 of 2014 in Pdf 4

8 Environmental decision 170225/2014 in Pdf 5

9 http://users.sch.gr//kalodimos/PRESS/prasino.htm

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