Wilderness in cities, protection of urban ecosystems, management of water resources, necessary changes in legal provisions and, finally, education and awareness are themes that particularly resonated during the 5th International Congress City — Water — Quality of Life, held at the Wrocław University of Technology on October 24-25 this year.
The event was held at the Congress Center of the Wrocław University of Technology
photo: Rafał Ogrodowczyk
why do we need biodiversity?
Although cities occupy only 3 percent of land area, their negative impact on the environment is enormous. Over 48 years (1970-2018), the population of monitored wildlife declined by an average of 69 percent, and freshwater species by 83! To offset, even a little, this impact, cities should urgently take steps to redefine their relationship with nature, to protect, connect, restore and enhance urban ecosystems, through nature-space integration in urban planning and management.
On how urban ecosystems should be created and developedProf. Anna Januchta-Szostak
We should, as Prof. Anna Januchta-Szostak, moderator of the "Urban Ecosystems" session, invite wildness into our cities, look from a frog's perspective in order to finally understand how interconnected we are. To go beyond the aesthetic role of nature, to see that biodiversity has an impact on our mental health and is economically justified — a diverse lawn, for example, will be more resistant to drought. Unfortunately, as Kinga Krauze of PAN's European Center for Ecohydrology notes, planning for biodiversity is still not emerging as a full-scale component of urban strategies.
Dr. Kinga Krauze
talks about how urban ecosystems should be created and developed
What is important in biodiversity is to maintain the connectivity of green areas and take care of existing peatlands and wetlands, about which we still know little, and — as Prof. Mariusz Lamentowicz of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań points out — they are carbon "gardens" in cities, they carry out processes important for the climate, take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigate heat waves (currently nearly 85 percent of peatlands are drained). In changing the approach to these seemingly unsightly areas, which are called wastelands, it is important, as Kasper Jakubowski of the Cracow University of Technology explained, to re-tell them, build a relationship with them, and expose them appropriately so that from nothing they become something. He pointed to the recently completed project on Warsaw Uprising Mound (proj.: Archigrest, topoScape) as an example of ecological succession.
photo: Rafał Ogrodowczyk
we are all doers
Education plays a key role in the changes that need to take place in our approach to nature — without knowledge, empathy and a profound change in awareness, we will not achieve much. According to research conducted in small towns by Prof. Zbigniew Karachun's team from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, less than half of their residents believe that humans are to blame for climate change. Smaller towns lack budgets, lack organizations to support residents, and lack consistent government policies and legal requirements to enforce change, with regulations often lagging behind proposed solutions.
photo: Rafal Ogrodowczyk
It is encouraging to see initiatives such as Code for Green and Code for Blue, which through educational activities show students that we are all causal, or the Youth Water Roundtable, in which the winning team of high school students from the 14th High School in Wroclaw proposed a project for a rain garden on school grounds, the installation of rainwater tanks and cooperation with allotment holders.
MobiLab, a mobile climate education laboratory implementing the principles of the Code for Green program, took to the streets of the city
Photo: Rafal Ogrodowczyk
Awareness should also be raised on the issue of waste management. Weronika Urbanska from the Wroclaw University of Technology encouraged looking at waste as a source of valuable raw materials (in 2022 in Poland each inhabitant generated 360 kg of garbage) and expanding the well-known 3R principle (reduce, reuse, recycle) with another 2R, i.e. refuse (refuse unnecessary things) and rot (compost).
Groundwater not only maintains water levels in surface watercourses, but also provides a source of water for urban plant and human ecosystems. According to Prof. Stanislaw Staśko of the University of Wroclaw, in an era of climate change, poor quality of surface water and its complicated treatment, the optimal solution is to use just groundwater. However, it should be kept in mind that our actions, for example, lack of adequate retention, pollution, have an impact on changes in the level of these waters.
On how to develop cities while protecting groundwaterProf. Ewa Krogulec
About the fact that "we are scouring the bottom when it comes to retention" and "we are poisoning not only the rivers, but also the sea", spoke Sebastian Bandycki of the start-up Hydrum, whose goal is to use saline waters to produce green hydrogen.
Dr. Jacek Ossowski
talks about how to develop cities while protecting groundwater
The congress was held for the fifth time in Wroclaw, a city that this year won first place in the Water City Index 2023. The event was accompanied by the October issue of A&B entirely devoted to water in architecture and the city. In the free e-publication you will read, among other things, interviews with Prof. Szymon Malinowski and Prof. Mariusz Lamentowicz about the forecast for water issues in cities: LINK. We invite you to read it!
The event was accompanied by the October issue of A&B entirely devoted to water in architecture and the city
photo: Rafał Ogrodowczyk