South Holland's cities need to become considerably greener in the coming decades, according to an agreement between the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), Naturalis, Wageningen University & Research (WUR), the municipalities of Dordrecht and Leiden, Staatsbosbeheer (the government forestry management agency), IVN Natuureducatie (the Institute for Nature Education), Alles is Gezondheid (All About Health), GGD Haaglanden (the municipal health service) and the province of South Holland. They will be working towards this as the Green Circle 'Green & Healthy City', with the aim of improving the health of residents, reducing heat and flooding, and increasing biodiversity.
Improved health, conservation of plant and animal species, and preparation for extreme weather
There are already many initiatives aimed at making cities greener and healthier, such as wadis, trees and green facades. All of these initiatives make demands on space, which is scarce, and involve a wide range of parties. These parties are now joining forces to form the Green Circle 'Green & Healthy City'. The goal of this Green Circle is to use greening strategies to prevent casualties resulting from extreme heat, extreme storms and flooding by 2050. The parties have collaborated to create a unified vision – a dream – for this purpose. The green city the partners dream of will have hundreds of thousands of trees to provide cooling during heat waves, and green gardens and water-permeable infrastructure to accommodate heavy rainfall.
Delegate Anne Koning (housing): ‘In the cities of South Holland specifically, we have various challenges ahead of us. More and more people are seeking pleasant ways of living, working and enjoying recreational activities here. A collaborative approach is important in order to make the scarce space that’s available green and healthy.’
Green Metropolis Programme Director Harry Boeschoten from the Staatsbosbeheer: ‘It’s important that we consider nature both within and outside of the city as a whole. By connecting them to each other, we create green and blue networks that benefit both people and animals. It should be possible for everyone to go outside into nature from their own front door.’
Karen van Ruiten, programme director at Alles is Gezondheid: ‘Access to nature offers many health benefits, especially for people from vulnerable groups. They can relax, socialise or exercise in green surroundings in their own neighbourhood. To increase health in the Netherlands, we need to make better and smarter use of green space in residential areas. The challenge is to do this together – no one can achieve this on their own.’
Why a coalition?
The formation of a coalition is necessary to address this enormous challenge, with the partners working together in an open and equal manner based on a unifying vision. This is the Green Circle. The coalition will tackle overarching issues in the Green Circle, such as insufficient knowledge, laws and regulations and funding. The parties will also initiate new activities from within the Green Circle, without assuming responsibility for them. In the coming period, the parties will be determining further action that needs to be taken, beyond what is already under way, in order to achieve the Circle’s goals.
There are several Green Circles already operating in South Holland, uniting companies, banks, science, social organisations and governments to form powerful coalitions for sustainable transitions.