Towards healthy urban living in Barcelona

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Insights from BlueHealth's scenario workshop

How does Barcelona anticipate the increase of inequalities by 2040, and what political and institutional developments on water management are expected to happen?

Insights from BlueHealth’s scenario workshop

There are income inequalities in Barcelona and there is a strong spatial concentration of poverty in a number of neighbourhoods.

Low income groups are at risk of poor health outcomes, have fewer resources to adapt to the effects of climate change, and are at risk of social exclusion. Climate change, and associated extreme weather, and freshwater availability will put pressure on the liveability of Barcelona and related adverse health effects will occur if no adaptation measures are implemented.

By 2030 almost a third of Barcelona’s residents will be 60 years old or older. Access to affordable housing is likely to decrease with rents in the city continuously rising, and reduced availability of suitable housing for example due to tourism. The ageing population will be especially vulnerable to the housing shortage, and non-optimal housing might further contribute to morbidity and mortality due to heatwaves in this population.

Major political and institutional developments with strong implications on water management in Barcelona are expected to happen. The reorganization of governance and subsidiarity at the level of municipalities and regions and the innovation of financing mechanisms (public/private) at different scales make roles and responsibilities for different water management functions less clear and potentially less effective. However, new water management technologies and increasing awareness amongst citizens regarding their role in surface water quality and drinking water consumption may aid Barcelona’s future water and climate challenges.

The trends described do not only present different challenges that need to be tackled but opportunities as well. Protecting water as a basic vital resource could be accomplished by adapting the built environment to anticipate climate change, but also by informing and raising awareness among citizens. Increasing blue and green spaces in the city can help to retain water and form a source of cooling and shade during warm periods in summer. However, although investments in good quality of surface waters attribute to the attractiveness of the city, they could also attribute to more gentrification and widen the social gap. Creating a healthy and socially fair and safe city could happen through creating more public blue and green spaces, especially in deprived neighbourhoods.

It is important to include perceptions, needs and ideas of different stakeholders, especially local residents, in plans for creating more equitable blue and green spaces within the city.

Written by Wilma Zijlema