Balancing long term sustainability and short-term social needs in peri-urban green space

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Let us imagine a rapidly urbanizing and highly dense city declaring a certain (forested) area as a natural park for protection of biodiversity and provision of green spaces for locals.

How might this become a reality?

To address the potential threats of decreasing green spaces and biodiversity loss, municipalities and regional governments may come together to actively take measures for protection of the urban ecosystems. The ecosystems could be demarcated and managed for their best use both for long term sustainability by protecting the ecosystem and its species and the immediate social needs (recreational and health) of the local people.

Formation of a natural park in a highly dense city can be shaped and supported by some national and the EU policies e.g. NATURA 2000. It can be further supported by the constitutional rights of citizens (to a healthy environment) and responsibility and duties of governments at multiple scales to provide those services for the citizens.

For the successful implementation of the intervention, formation of a governance body based on multi-level government agencies, municipalities, scientific, advisory and consultative bodies (engaging the members of civil society, research institutes, NGOs and academia) would be crucial. Yet, striking a balance between different visions of the stakeholders for the park, particularly, biodiversity protection (for next generations/long term outcome) and social benefits (recreation and green space for present generation) could be a great challenge. It is possible that one vision overshadows the other due to exclusion of some actors at various stages of the park’s management planning process. As in many cases, park managers or other main stakeholders may avoid local citizens’ participation to the extent possible fearing further complexity of the planning process. However, to avoid exclusion and to promote legitimacy and equality, effective, non-tokenistic participation of all stakeholders during all stages of the park’s management planning should be ensured.

The park management team may ensure continuous communication about the park’s affairs through various communication tools e.g. meetings and workshops while making sure the content is comprehensible for all stakeholders. Moreover, for better decision making park authority can create a network for learning and exchange of knowledge between parks within and across regions/urban contexts. Finally, learning and knowledge exchange across parks in Europe may help overcoming challenges and adopt more inclusive planning methods to achieve long term sustainability and short-term social justice goals.

Do you want to learn more about this scenario?

Take a look at the detailed description of Biodiversity protection and social justice in the Barcelona Natural Park that has inspired this scenario.

This scenario fits under the approach:

  • Nature-based solutions. This approach refers to solutions for urban sustainability that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience.

It addresses some drivers of injustice:

  • Uneven and exclusionary urban intensification and regeneration. This driver refers to the ways in which new urban developments might force trade-offs between the social and environmental goals of urban sustainability projects. It involves public efforts to improve a neighbourhood’s physical structure and boost its economy by attracting investment, usually in the sectors of real estate and tourism.
  • Limited citizen participation in urban planning. This driver refers to the limited involvement and engagement of citizens and citizens’ initiatives in decision-making around the planning, design, implementation and/or evaluation of urban sustainability-oriented interventions.
  • Unfit institutional structures. This driver refers to those aspects or functions of organizations, public offices, administrations and authorities that deal with urban governance and stand in the way of achieving just outcomes in urban sustainability.