Greening the city, an idea that sparks both enthusiasm and scepticism
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    Greening the city, an idea that sparks both enthusiasm and scepticism

    © Belga

    The BOS+ environmental organisation on Wednesday called on the next Flemish government to plant at least six million trees in the short term in towns and villages to make the air cooler and fight heat waves.

    Official associations and bodies find the idea “interesting” and “self-evident”, but caution that it would be illusory to think such action alone would be enough.

    Trees help to make the air cooler and fight against the accumulation of heat in city blocks. “That goes without saying,” noted Mohamed Benzaouia, head of mission at the Inter-Environnement Bruxelles association. “The role of trees is very important; they regulate climate naturally.”

    “Any plan to redevelop nature just about everywhere is very interesting,” commented Marc Herman, director of the Walloon Observatory of Forest Health, adding that Wallonia’s public service was moving in that direction. “However, it would be a bit illusory to think that this action alone would be enough. It is interesting if it’s part of a more general reflection.”

    For Mr. Benzaouia, there is “a problem with the way public spaces are built.” He cited the example of the Place De Brouckère “which has just been redone and is a big empty space.” “There is not the least shade to shelter from the sun,” he noted.

    The capital’s greening rate is 50%, but this is largely due to the Soignes Forest, according to Charlotte Claessens of Brussels Environment’s sustainable cities department. “The green spaces are not equitably spread across the territory.”

    Strategic plans, reinforced by the Regional Sustainable Development Plan, PRDD, have been adopted, with a view, in particular, to increasing the region’s tree cover and let nature back in. “The foundation is there, but it now depends on political will,” says Ms. Claessens.

    “We’re moving towards a culture of public spaces where pedestrians and cyclists regain their place but there is room to go further and be more ambitious,” she added. “We are also not in the habit of leaving room for spontaneous nature, which requires less management but whose visual aspect is different.”

    “One feels like going for it,” she stressed. “All the ingredients are there but perhaps a little nudge would be needed.”

    Oscar Schneider

    The Brussels Times