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Project Updates in Cēsis, Valmiera, and Rīga

Project Updates in Cēsis, Valmiera, and Rīga

Increasingly destructive rainstorms and heatwaves – the rise in extreme weather events due to climate change is a reality that we are already facing. Moreover, scientific forecasts indicate that these problems will become more frequent in the future. For this reason, it is crucial for city municipalities to work on climate adaptation now. A highly effective tool for increasing urban climate resilience and improving residents’ well-being is thoughtful green infrastructure planning, as well as implementing nature-based solutions. Since 2022, the LIFE LATESTadapt project has been implemented in three Latvian cities – Rīga, Cēsis, and Valmiera – with the goal of enhancing urban resilience to extreme weather through green infrastructure solutions. Within the project, various actions are being taken in these cities to improve climate resilience, including the development of nature-based solutions and the creation of planning documents such as Greening Plans to promote sustainable management of urban green areas. Read more about the main project updates in each of the involved Latvian municipalities in this article.

Project Updates in Cēsis

Since the start of the project in Cēsis, extensive preparatory work has been underway for the development of the Greening Plan, including the collection and processing of available data to assess the current situation and identify problem areas, utilizing both expert knowledge and involving the community.

In 2023, two resident surveys were conducted as part of the project: one focused on the most important green areas in Cēsis and their functions, and the other on environmental problem areas in Cēsis. Based on the information gathered from the surveys and other data layers, the Baltic Environmental Forum-Latvia in cooperation with Riga Technical University prepared an interactive map explorer that will be updated later in during the project, as well as used for public involvement and other activities.

Currently, in the summer of 2024, data refinement is ongoing. Work on the Greening Plan for Cēsis will commence in the fall, involving the public and all interested parties in the co-creation process.

Additionally, work continues on the development of the project’s demonstration site in Cēsis, where nature-based solutions for flood resilience will be implemented. The Cēsis demonstration site will be located in Vintergrava, covering approximately 10 hectares with a 258-hectare rainwater drainage basin. The creation of nature-based solutions will reduce rapid rainwater and sediment runoff into the Gauja River, ensuring rainwater infiltration and self-purification.

Project Updates in Valmiera

In Valmiera, active preparations have also been underway for the development of the Greening Plan, including resident surveys, data collection, processing, and situation analysis together with project partners. The municipality plans to start developing Valmiera’s Greening Plan in 2024. Currently, the main objectives of the plan is being defined, with colleagues actively discussing to ensure a comprehensive and effective plan.

To better define the objectives of the Greening Plan and the expected results, a meeting with project partners was held in early June in Valmiera. During the meeting, experts presented the findings of current project research, which allowed for a better understanding of the directions that the Greening Plan would need to focus on. The meeting concluded with discussions in working groups. One group’s task was to seek answers to questions about the conceptual aspects of Valmiera’s Greening Plan, while another group addressed practical aspects – using problem area mapping to identify priority areas requiring the implementation of nature-based solutions and the most suitable solutions.

In spring, Valmiera also hosted an international urban planning and innovation hackathon “LifeHack Valmiera,” organized by Riga Technical University in cooperation with Valmiera Municipality. Six problem areas in Valmiera were defined during the hackathon, with each team selecting one of these areas to develop new ideas and technologies for addressing climate change challenges. The event was won by a team from Estonia, offering a solution for the renovation and improvement of the Valmiera Olympic Center’s parking lot and surrounding area to reduce the heat island effect.

Planning work also continues in Valmiera for the project’s demonstration site, where nature-based solutions will be implemented.

Project Updates in Rīga

Meanwhile, in Rīga the City Council in mid-May has officially approved the start of the development of Rīga’s Urban Greening Plan for 2027-2031. The plan will be a policy planning document with an action plan, including various activities to mitigate the impact of climate change such as heat islands, rain floods, and biodiversity loss. One of the Plan’s tasks is to develop a framework to promote a joint network of green infrastructure in the urban environment and ensure its accessibility. Currently, extensive and challenging work continues with project partners on the analysis of the current situation of Rīga’s green areas and the identification of problem areas. Similar to Cēsis and Valmiera, two resident surveys have been conducted in cooperation with the Baltic Environmental Forum (BEF), addressing important green areas for residents and environmental problem areas. A map explorer has been developed under the leadership of Riga Technical University and BEF to visualize the project results and further involve the public.

During the plan’s development, active work with the community is also planned – an expert meeting on nature-based solutions in the city was held in April, and a wider audience was introduced to the Plan during the seminar “Rīga is becoming greener! City ‘green’ solutions and challenges” in June. In addition, the first working group meeting will be held in August. Also, in the fall, Rīga will host Latvia’s first Climate Assembly on the topic of “Rīga’s urban greening for improving residents’ quality of life,” where relevant issues related to the Greening Plan will be discussed. More information and opportunities for participation will soon be published on the City Development Department’s website and Rīga City’s social networks.

In Rīga, the demonstration site for nature-based solutions will be located on Tērbatas Street and adjacent areas, where innovative solutions for sustainable stormwater management and reduction of the heat island effect will be implemented. The development of procurement documentation for the design and construction plans of Tērbatas Street’s green infrastructure is scheduled to be completed in May-June 2024. The procurement will identify the most effective and economically justified solutions for implementing activities, develop work scope tables, technical specifications, and indicative construction costs for green walls, green roofs, parklets, rain gardens, and bio-swale solutions. These nature-based solutions will be used to such extent for the first time in Rīga, offering a broader range of additional benefits. These solutions will not only reduce the heat island effect and flood risk but also create quality public outdoor spaces, which in turn are essential for residents’ physical and mental health by reducing stress levels and providing space for outdoor activities.

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