The city of Barcelona holds one of the last positions at European level in terms of commitment to the environment, especially when talking about green spaces. This is expressed by the data obtained by the international consulting firm Arcadis, which has prepared a market research where it analyzes and assesses the level of commitment to the environment of the main European cities. From this study we have extracted a classification of the 30 municipalities in Europe that have adopted a greater environmental commitment. This ranking focuses on the following aspects:
• Environmental risks
• Green spaces
• Air pollution
• Greenhouse gas emissions
• Waste management
• Drinking water and sanitation
According to the data obtained in the study, Barcelona would be out of the 'Top 10', specifically in the 13th position. It would be positioned behind Zurich, which is crowned as the most committed city towards the environment, followed by Stockholm, Genoa and Vienna. On the other hand, we are ahead of important European capitals such as Paris, Brussels or Moscow, considered by Arcadis the least committed city with the environment in Europe.
Arcadis’ classification highlights a worrying inequality in terms of green spaces in Barcelona compared to the rest of the indicators, the 3rd lowest among European cities, only ahead of Athens and Istanbul. An alarming fact that reflects the scarcity of green spaces that, beyond recreation opportunities for citizens, would alleviate the worrying pollution levels of the city and serve as breathing lungs, providing much needed oxygen.
Green spaces: pending homework for the city
Currently, Barcelona has 2,784 hectares of green space, approximately 17% of its territory. This means 17,7 sqm per inhabitant, but only if we count the Collserola hills range (1,698 of these 2,784 hectares), which could hardly be considered an urban area -although the City of Barcelona counts them as such-. If we perform this estimation by looking only at the green spaces located inside of the city, the figure drops to 6.5 sqm, not particularly reassuring if we take into account that the minimum recommended by the WHO and the European Union is 15 sqm per inhabitant.
The green spaces of the city are distributed, roughly, as follows:
• The Natural Park of the Sierra de Collserola (1,698 ha in Barcelona, more than 8,000 in total), the Llobregat River, the Besós River and the sea, in the limits of the municipal area.
• The plain of Barcelona, mostly occupied by the urban grid (235,000 trees)
• The parks and public gardens (82) and the rest of urban green spaces (1,102 ha in total).
Regarding districts, the Eixample is the one that registers the worse score, with only 1.9 sqm of green spaces per inhabitant, almost 10 times less than the figure recommended by the WHO. It is a district without practically any park or plaza that acts as a breathing lung for its neighbors. Faced with this situation, the City Council has opted to work on the opening of different inner courtyards in the Eixample, given the impossibility of building new parks or gardens.
At the opposite end is the district of Sants-Montjuïc, which has in its territory the green hectares of the mountain of Montjuïc, an important lung of Barcelona and one of the main recreational areas of the city. If we choose to omit Collserola, this would be the only district that exceeds the WHO guidelines, with 16.48 sqm of green space per inhabitant.
New green lungs for Barcelona
Recently, the Barcelona City Council announced that the city will have five new urban parks by 2019, which will add up to a total of 44 hectares of green space. The final goal is for Barcelona to have a total of 165 new hectares by 2030, thus adding one square meter of natural space per current inhabitant of the city. The new planned parks are: the Mas Ravetllat el Guinardó, the central park of the Marina del Prat Vermell, the park of les Casernes de Sant Andreu, the Canòpia de Glòries park and the Colonia Castells park in Les Corts. To these five new parks there will be added three gardens, ten green squares and ten interior blocks of the Eixample.
To these projects we must add the new campaigns to promote new forms of urban green, especially green roofs, that is, the use of roofs of buildings, terraces and balconies as spaces for the growth of vegetation and urban gardens.