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The Warsaw Voice » Business » November 3, 2015
Innovative Poland
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Going Green
November 3, 2015   
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Leszek Drogosz, Director of Infrastructure at Warsaw City Hall, talks to El¿bieta Wrzecionkowska about green projects in the city.

Warsaw has just put its name forward for the European Green Capital Award. Why did you decide to enter the competition and what are Warsaw’s chances of winning such a title?

We first thought of entering Warsaw several years ago. We didn’t lack solid arguments, but we were short of tools to monitor and measure what was already there and what we had achieved by that point. As we were getting ready to apply, we performed certain measurements that had never been carried out before and we found that many of the results looked highly promising. We can be proud of Warsaw. Many Varsovians are unaware that green areas make up almost 40 percent of the city. Almost 20,000 hectares of green space is really a lot. The trees and vegetation that are part of the city’s fabric form a whole environmental system and give Warsaw a distinct character and atmosphere.

One of Warsaw’s chief assets is the Vistula River. For many years neglected, it is now being returned to the city. A little known fact is that the Vistula is one of the few natural rivers that remain in Europe. Our biodiversity model is heavily based on the Vistula. Its somewhat wild eastern bank is populated by unique bird species and no other urban area in Europe can compare to it. Warsaw is a capital in which you can come across the rare white-tailed eagle.

Within the administrative boundaries of Warsaw there are 95 parks. They have a total area of 1136 ha and have been constantly redeveloped. Warsaw is surrounded by woodlands, including the Kampinoski National Park and Chojeckie Forest. I’ll skip the details of tree planting campaigns that we hold annually and which bring tangible results, but I can tell you that a lot of Warsaw residents have been keen to take part. I think you can see the results best in early spring when the city literally blossoms.

What else does Warsaw have to offer in terms of green credentials?

We have been changing the city for years, working to improve the quality of water, air and transportation. The results are there for all to see, especially because by opting for state-of-the-art green technology, we have been able to do a lot of catching up. For example, the Czajka sewage treatment plant is one of the most technologically advanced in Europe. It neutralizes aggressive substances such as nitrogen and phosphorus so that we have managed to improve the quality of tap water in Warsaw to the point where you can enjoy it unboiled without any health concerns. We have been encouraging the local population to do just that. The quality of water in the Vistula has been improving rapidly, as confirmed by tests conducted by NGOs.

We’ve also been gradually replacing public buses with electric ones, with plans for 130 such buses by 2020. Since the Czajka sewage treatment plant produces biogas, we want to use the gas in public transportation. A gas-powered fleet could become an alternative to vehicles running on conventional fuel.

Independently of the construction of the Warsaw metro, for several years we have been expanding rail transportation in the city. Warsaw has launched a highly popular city bike rental system and next year we are planning to start a similar system with cars including electric ones in order to reduce traffic and curb emissions of exhaust gases.

Warsaw’s efforts to protect the climate and foster sustainable development have been recognized by the international community, including the United Nations, which decided to hold its 19th Climate Change Conference (COP19) in Warsaw in November 2013.

In our Green Capital application, we have listed what we have achieved so far and what our plans are. I think our chances are good and the very fact that we’re taking part in the competition is highly motivating for us.

How would Warsaw benefit if it won the European Green Capital title?

This is above all a huge challenge and we Poles like challenges a lot. But being a green capital above all means getting an opportunity to promote our city all over the world and catch attention of investors.
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