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So that Tirana does not suffer the fate of Athens

So that Tirana does not suffer the fate of Athens

Naum Mara*


The future of the Greek capital does not seem very certain. Global warming and the heat of the city itself may render it uninhabitable in a few decades. As of now, many residents of Athens have thought of leaving the city for areas with more greenery and freshness. Maybe even in northern European countries.

What was immediately noticeable when visiting the Greek capital was the lack of large parks and the density of buildings. The Greek elite made a serious economic-social mistake in the 80s and 90s, concentrating the country's entire economy in the capital. The swelling of the state administration was another reason, that villages and small towns were abandoned and half of the population of Greece concentrated in Athens.

All this migration was accompanied by serious urban planning errors such as the development of new micro-regions without large green areas and without other public spaces, which would reduce the density of constructions in the city. This overcrowding of constructions was also influenced by the urban regulation, that constructions should not exceed the height of 12 floors. In almost all neighborhoods, not far from the center of Athens, plots that previously had only one house or a villa were replaced during the 80s and 90s with collective buildings from 6 to 12 floors.

Tirana risks the same thing as the Greek capital. Although its population is far from that of Athens, with the uncontrolled economic-urbanistic developments, it seems that after a few years it will have half the population of Albania. It is the same phenomena that repeat themselves. The concentration of all powers and institutions in the capital, the swelling of the state administration, public investments with a lot of difference from those made in other cities.

Since 1998, there has not been an urban planning orientation to create a 21st century city, but public areas and in recent years many areas of the Great Artificial Lake Park have continued to be given over to high-rise buildings. Overheating is visible in Tirana due to the reduction of green surfaces and the overload in the circulation of individual means of transport. Furthermore there are no plans to build a subway for this city which tends to go towards 1 million and more inhabitants.

But, even if the best urban planning criteria are decided for the capital, the main problem remains political and economic. It has to do primarily with the decentralization of power and the increase in the competences of local governments. But with the coming into power of the Socialist Party in 2013, the process of decentralization has not only stopped, but laws and decisions have been applied that have increased centralization. It seems impossible that Rama and Veliaj and company will let go in this direction. The ongoing constructions in Tirana are the main source of their personal income, as well as the purchase of elections. The megalomaniacal actions of organizing major artistic and sporting events are also likely to be repeated, as happened with the Greek adventure of the Olympic Games in 2004. It is the same scenario.

Let's do great things to "fix the millet", to advertise our genius and to personally benefit from public investments.

Tirana is among the cities with the most polluted air in Europe. It is difficult to find serious studies, based on accurate statistical data, on how the air quality and the increase in the temperature of the capital affect cardiovascular and lung diseases. But the fact is that during the three months of summer, life in Tirana becomes more and more difficult, especially for the elderly, who are also the poorest segment of the population and find it difficult to "summer" away from the capital.

We still have to hope in the "internationals" and in the tasks that Brussels will soon give us to accept us in the European family. Perhaps the mistakes made in Athens have opened the eyes of European bureaucrats to curb corruption and autocracy, which are the main reasons for the return of Mediterranean cities to settlements where the quality of life continues to decline.

*The author is an architect and lives in Canada

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