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LIFE Programme Newsletter | December 2023

Latest news from the LIFE programme:

  • LIFE projects participating at COP28;
  • LIFE projects in the Energy Poverty Advisory Hub
  • LIFE Programme at the Clean Air Forum
  • …… and more news  please find out HERE.
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Use and values of urban green areas in three Latvian cities: summary of social survey results

In summer 2023 Baltic Environmental Forum – Latvia conducted a social survey on the urban green spaces important for people in the three Latvian cities involved in LIFE LATESTadapt project: Riga, Cesis and Valmiera.

The surveying took place from May to August 2023. All residents, as well as frequent visitors of Riga, Cesis and Valmiera, were invited to participate in the survey. A total of 1030 participants completed the survey, providing more than 1180 data points with urban green spaces that are important for them.

The survey was carried out in cooperation with project partners – municipalities of Cesis, Valmiera and Riga. The survey results will be used to integrate social values of the urban green areas in the green infrastructure mapping that is being developed in the LATESTadapt project for Riga, Cesis and Valmiera.  

About the cities

Riga is the capital city and also the largest city of Latvia. Riga has more than 630 000 residents, and it is a distinctly multifunctional city. Although on European scale Riga can be considered a relatively green city, the distribution of green areas is uneven and Riga faces various climate change related challenges, including flooding during extreme rainfall events and the heat island effect.

Valmiera is a mid-size industrial city characterised by high economic activity. It has approx. 24 000 residents, and it is considered to be one of the few growing cities in Latvia.  

The third city – Cesis – is a small and historical town that is characterised by a lot of green areas. Cesis is located right next to one of Latvian national parks – Gauja National Park. Cesis has approx. 16 000 residents.

Summary of results

Interestingly, despite the large differences between the cities (size, number of residents etc.), the survey results showed many similarities:

  • In all three cities the most popular activity in urban green areas is walking. Among the most popular uses of green areas were also such activities as: enjoying the fresh air and beauty of nature, relieving stress by being in the nature. Overall, in all three cities, people use green spaces for activities that promote both physical and mental health, demonstrating the important role they play in the well-being of urban dwellers.
  • In all three cities, both residents and frequent visitors are active users of urban green spaces. Approximately 90% of survey participants indicated that they had visited the marked area within the last month.
  • According to survey results, the three most important values for survey participants in green spaces are: distance from home (close to home), aesthetics and pleasant atmosphere.
  • About 2/3 of the survey participants wanted to see some improvements in the green area they completed the survey about. The wishes for improvements were highly diverse. Among the most popular ones were improved or renewed amenities (benches, better lighting etc.) and improved management of green areas.
  • In all three cities, the majority of respondents (>80%) are interested in how their city’s green spaces are being developed and they care that the urban nature is protected.
  • Results in all three cities show contrasting views on what urban green spaces should look like, with some survey participants wanting to see as many carefully maintained green spaces as possible, while others stated they value the opportunity to enjoy natural green spaces in the city. There are also different views on whether there is a place for ‘wild nature’ in cities. Support for ‘wild nature’ is relatively higher in Riga.

The biggest differences in the results were seen in the perceived access to green spaces. The highest proportion of respondents who believe that there are not enough green spaces near their place of residence is in Riga (~50%), while the lowest is in Cesis (~30%).

More detailed summary results is available here (Latvian only): https://www.bef.lv/latest-aptaujas-kopsavilkums/

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Participation in the LIFE programme networking event

On 3 November 2023, the seventh meeting of LIFE projects in Latvia took place. The aim of this event was to inform the participants about the news, planned activities and challenges of the LIFE projects in Latvia, as well as to share experience and discuss topical issues related to the implementation of LIFE projects.

In the first part of the event, the participants accompanied by the LIFE-IP LatViaNature team went on two excursions to learn more about the project’s activities and plans.

During the first excursion, the participants visited the nature park “Ragakāpa”, where they were accompanied by LIFE-IP LatViaNature invasive species experts Jānis Saulītis and Jēkabs Dzenītis and got acquainted with the eradication works of the invasive Corinth’s beetle.

The second excursion took the participants to the picturesque Lake Kaņieris, where the project expert Linda Uzule explained the development of habitat and species conservation objectives.

In the second part of the event, representatives of Latvian LIFE projects presented their projects, discussed what has been achieved during the year and what is planned for the future. During the presentations, the participants took the opportunity to share with each other the experience gained from the implementation of the European Commission LIFE projects in Latvia. Representatives from the State Regional Development Agency Latvian Environmental Protection Fund administration, which administers national funding for LIFE projects, also participated in the event.

The event was attended by 31 representatives from 9 ongoing LIFE projects in Latvia. The LIFE Support Unit would like to express its gratitude to all the participants, as well as special thanks to the LIFE-IP LatViaNature team for their initiative and for providing the excursions.

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Survey on environmental problem areas in Rīga, Cēsis and Valmiera

In the frame of the project Baltic Environmental Forum-Latvia in cooperation with Riga Municipality, Cēsis Municipality and Valmiera Municipality  is working on mapping green infrastructure in these cities, which will serve as a basis for finding the best green space planning solutions. For the mapping , it is important to identify specific environmental problem areas. Inhabitants of Rīga, Cēsis or Valmiera are invited to to fill the short online questionnaire to report about the places affected by flood after heavy rains or heat up strongly in summer.