The Environmental Protection Department of the City of Kragujevac (Serbia) identified air pollution as the most serious and urgent environmental problem in the city. The municipality acknowledged the necessity of the creation of an air quality plan and sustainable transport in the city – counteracting the most dominant source of air pollution: motorised traffic. Besides the establishment of the Local Environmental Action Plan (2010), the Kragujevac Sustainable Development Strategy (2012-2022) and the Transport Development Strategy (2012-2022), the city is seeking for further effective strategies towards clean air. Thereby, the municipality faces different challenges, such as a lack of funding, low-level awareness of all stakeholders and a lack of required knowledge. In response to these concerns, Connective Cities hosted the study tour on "Planning for Clean Air: Implementation of low-emission zones and air pollution control" for delegates of the Serbian municipality of Kragujevac from 20 to 23 August 2018.
The study tour programme was geared towards municipal practitioners and decision-makers, supporting the exchange of knowledge and experiences on the basis of good practice scenarios in Germany. The programme comprised different approaches towards the following four central subject questions:
What are the environmental, social and economic impacts of low-emission zones?
What are the core aspects of appropriate policy design and infrastructural planning for low-emission zones?
What are the appropriate governance structures and arrangements for successful clean air planning, with regard to municipal, regional and (supra)-national stakeholders?
How to achieve public acceptance and civic engagement with low-emission zones and what innovations can support the operations of low-emission zones?
The study tour for the urban practitioners from Kragujevac led to various locations in North Rhine-Westphalia, as the Cities of Hagen and Dortmund, and the district government of Arnsberg welcomed the Serbian delegation. The study tour also included a mix of presentations and keynotes by the host municipalities, as well as field visits to different focal points in the city, such as air pollution measuring stations, bicycle stations, and remodified pedestrian zones. Each visit helped to deepen the participant’s knowledge and understanding of planning for clean air and sustainable urban mobility in different local contexts and on various institutional levels. Furthermore, the participants discussed the complexity of the legal policy framework of the European Union and its implementation on national and sub-national levels with regard to potential complaints and infringement procedures by civil society actors, addressing the exceedance of limit values for air pollution. In addition to the guiding theme of planning for clean air in the field of urban mobility, the delegates visited a sewage plant system and the renaturation project of the rivers Ruhr and Moehne as part of an excursion in the field of environmental planning.
The German practitioners showed in their presentations and site-visits what measures can be implemented in order to address the problems of air pollution, noise and adverse modes of transportation and consumption. Innovative forms of mobility and new routing concepts, as well as public involvement and participation were exemplary focus points of the good practices presented and discussed. It also became clear that a change of mobility patterns requires long-term commitment and forward visions of how a city should look like in future. The cities of Dortmund and Hagen showed that new measures on urban mobility also imply changes in the functioning and fabric of a city: new, formerly deprived parts of the city can be accessed and transformed introducing new activities for leisure or local economic development, while car dependency, air pollution and noise can be reduced.
Finally, the four delegates from Kragujevac highlighted the interesting and rich discussions, presentations and field visits as good and fruitful learning experiences. As a main conclusion, it was shown that planning for clean air implies a better focus on human-friendly planning instead of a car-friendly city model, a comprehensive involvement of all stakeholders (also including children), and the promotion of health as a public incentive. At the same time, the German host municipalities and the district authority in Arnsberg expressed their gratitude towards the opportunity to exchange knowledge with a municipality from Serbia and the resulting international learning experience.
Read here the programme of the study tour.