The blue, the green, the city in between

by Laura Spray, MSc Candidate in Geography at Universität Bonn / UNU-EHS – United Nations University of Environmental Risk and Human Security and Resilient Cities 2017 communications volunteer

The City of Oslo, known fondly to its residents as “the blue, the green and the city in between” due to its unique position between the sea and forest, faces similar environmental challenges to other urban areas around the world. In particular, more frequent and intense precipitation events stemming from climate change poses significant problems. The clay soil that underlies the city, combined with these rainfall events, contribute to pollution and flooding – and traditional stormwater systems are not enough.

The city government has decided to use this influx of precipitation to its benefit, by using water to transform urban areas. Here are three ways Oslo is reinventing the familiar issue of urban stormwater management and moving ahead on climate action:

  1. Reopening riverways

Many small rivers and creeks run through metropolitan Oslo, most of which are closed off or intersect with waste pipes. To create open spaces and reduce localized flooding, the government is reopening sections of the Ensjø River. This project has not only lead to a usable, attractive area for citizens, but also has increased biodiversity – such as trout and waterfowl – and brought noticeably cleaner water.

  1. Rainwater gardens

Throughout Oslo, rainwater gardens are used to manage storm precipitation and create aesthetically pleasing avenues. Areas that were once predominantly gray are now littered with pockets of green. Multiple designs of gardens have been implemented, all of which will be monitored to assess compatibility with changing weather. The hope is that this rainwater harvesting will redirect water from the traditional underground pipe system.

  1. Mainstreaming climate change action

Oslo established an Agency for Climate in 2016, which focuses on providing climate expertise and move the city towards an integrated sustainable future. Community engagement has also been vital to regeneration plans in the city. As residents learn of the positive outcomes from ongoing transformations, they become more open to and engaged with the developments.

Next on the agenda:

The City of Oslo presents an excellent example of how to transform gray urban infrastructure into spaces that are open, green and livable. The city plans to continue implementing rainwater gardens, reopening more river segments and developing ways to make rainwater usable for habitants. With these ongoing developments, the City of Oslo can hope to be blue, green and the city with a bit more green in between.

This post is based on the “Urban response to climate change and storm water management in Oslo” at Resilient Cities 2017.

The contents of this article reflect the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.

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