Green cities are cleaner and healthier, and they attract a more highly educated population. For municipalities, it is therefore important to invest in urban green areas – despite the fact that this yields financial benefits only over the long term.
Jan Willem van der Schans of LEI Wageningen UR is involved with the Green Deal, a coalition of companies, two ministries (the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment) and the LEI to upscale and accelerate initiatives in urban agriculture. Van der Schans sees urban agriculture as inherent to big cities: “In many big cities, such green urban areas are an absolute necessity to keep the city liveable. For example, in Rotterdam you have to cycle for more than an hour before you get to the first farmland”.
Rotterdam: investments in green urban areas
KennisOnline Magazine interviewed Alexandra van Huffelen (D66), Rotterdam city councillor with a portfolio that includes sustainability, the inner-city and outdoor space. By investing in green urban areas (such as roof gardens and urban farming) Rotterdam wants to remain an attractive location for living and working. “Another important consideration is that Rotterdam residents have a lower life expectancy than the average Dutch citizen. We therefore want to make our city a healthier place!”
Green urban areas are cost neutral
All municipal councils in the Netherlands are currently faced with budget cutbacks. Maintenance and development of green urban areas is one expense item on which many municipalities are cutting back. However, several other cities besides Rotterdam – including Utrecht, Nijmegen and Maastricht – are continuing to focus on green urban areas. According to Peter Visschedijk of Alterra Wageningen UR, this is a sensible policy. “Green urban areas are ultimately cost neutral. Green cities are cleaner and healthier, and they attract a more highly educated population. At the end of the day, this also benefits the municipal tax base.”
Urban agriculture: New York roof gardens
Green urban areas are not only a priority in the Netherlands, but also internationally. Applied Plant Research, part of Wageningen UR, is planning a study trip to New York, the pioneer city of urban agriculture, for researchers, civil servants and entrepreneurs. The excursion will take place in October in cooperation with Tripworks Study Tours. The participants will visit roof gardens where food for restaurants and food banks is being grown. These are community gardens that promote social cohesion. Moreover, in deprived neighbourhoods these gardens are often the only locations for miles around where fresh food can be found. They will also visit multifunctional farmers in the Hudson Valley, who earn a good income by collectively selling locally produced food to urban markets.