Protecting access in the city of Tallinn

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Insights from BlueHealth's scenario workshop

Climate change and its ecological impacts are among the leading trends likely to influence life in the Estonian city of Tallinn.

Insights from BlueHealth’s scenario workshop

In Tallinn, climate change and its ecological impacts are among the leading trends to influence BlueHealth qualities of city life in Tallinn, mostly related to moderate flooding and heat stress risks. The city has developed local adaptation measures to tackle the effects of climate change and improve urban biodiversity status.

The loss of biodiversity, pollution and depletion of natural resources have a negative effect on water-related ecosystems, as is the case for the water bodies of Tallinn. By recognizing the essential role of bodies of water (including the sea) as an element of internal structure for the city, the city of Tallinn through its Environmental Strategy 2030, aims to increase the linkage and utilization of banks and bodies of water by creating public points of access to areas that are in open and public use as well as improve the coherence between the green network and residential areas. Departing from current municipal policies, the wider development of new open to public waterfronts is foreseeable in the nearest future, which contributes to the promotion of citizens’ health and wellbeing, enables also to use public space for restoring natural areas and protecting biodiversity.

Tallinn has a relatively young population, stemming from urbanization whereby the young are moving into the suburbs and the older people retire and move to the countryside. This brings different challenges such as the accessibility to the waterfront for the elderly as well as their susceptibility to heat stress in the absence of water. Other effects might be a changing frequency of age-related diseases and a changing private/work/care balance for the working population. The shift in age groups might call for different options regarding urban water use, both in terms of availability and water quality.

The increasing income inequality and waterfront regeneration perspectives might affect water related health and wellbeing qualities at a notable rate. Tallinn has several beaches as public bathing areas as well as several business-owned closed areas where public free access to the sea is prevented. However, due to significant increase in the city’s building activity near or at the coastal areas, there is a risk that areas that have been in public use until now will be covered in building and lose its function as a public city space.

Estonia is one of the frontrunners regarding (application of) digital technological developments, has technical infrastructure services of high quality available for residents of the city of Tallinn such as internet coverage, speed, digital accessibility of public services. Ranking among the top ten digital cities in the world, Tallinn aims to use its technological and digital lead to increase technological systems tailored towards more efficient domestic water management as well as for smarter urban water systems

The precise directions of further technological progress are unknown, however, it will unmistakably have an impact on daily life. In general, increased digital connectivity may result in enhanced community building around water, health and well-being. That could potentially lead to increased water-and-health advocacy. Individuals will have easier access to data, although access to and use of big data might also lead to new societal divisions. City authorities jointly with responsible governance sectors have a key role facilitate the development of user-friendly interfaces for data and information (related to urban biodiversity and environment, especially as water related health and wellbeing regards).

Written by Mart Külvik.