Letter: Sad state of Athens is a lesson to the world

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The Independent Online
Sir: Why was Athens not mentioned in Herbert Girardet's article on the environmental threat posed by cities such as London, Berlin and Paris ('Dust off the cities, clean up the world', 19 May)? Indeed, Athens seems to be mentioned increasingly rarely these days. I would have thought Athens was one of the strongest arguments the environmentalists have in the world battle to curb city pollution.

I lived in Athens for five years, returning to London a few months ago; London is like a breath of fresh air. I can wake up in the morning here and smell 'spring'. The pollution in Athens has become so bad that hundreds of people die each year from its effects. Sometimes cars are not allowed into the city centre at all until the toxic air-pollution levels are at a reasonably safe level.

People are warned each year not to go swimming along the Athens coast because it is so polluted, right the way out to Sunio, but a swim in the sea is the only rest most Athenians get from the heat and air pollution. The result is that thousands of people suffer from skin fungal infections.

The Acropolis, even untouched by Hitler, has been so badly damaged by pollution in the last 20 years that it is in danger of being destroyed beyond repair. Athens is constantly covered in a black-brown cloud, the black dust gets everywhere, people cannot breathe and a once magnificent city is being totally destroyed. The Athenians complain among themselves daily, yet nothing seems to be done to help Athens and its people. Has the city and its problem become an embarrassment for the rest of Europe? Has it really become easier to leave its people to suffocate in their own waste?

I do realise that the problem is partly financial, and that Greece has many other problems, but surely Athens must not be forgotten in the world battle to curb pollution. It is a sad demise for a once very beautiful city and the birthplace of Europe.

Yours sincerely,


London, W2

19 May