Tuesday, 10 April 2012

What are the lungs of the cities?

Allotments as green space in Riga, Latvia.

by Ilze Grunska

Just next to the high buildings of the cities, are situated allotments - calm place for green lifestyle. Photo by Ilze Grunska.


Green surroundings with trees, flowers and all kind of plants make most of the people feel more comfortable than car emmisions and smell of oil and pollution. Moreover, green plants are the way to reduce carbon dioxide gases. Allotments are the places which not only bring communities together, but also provide space for fresh vegetables, fresh air for everybody, but also brings benefits to wildlife and helps cities to breathe. Allotments are an important "home” place for the insects and animals who are part of the ecosystem, but they are endagered in the big cities.

Just next to the high buildings of the cities, are situated allotments - calm place for green lifestyle. Photo by Ilze Grunska.

Kristīne Āboliņa is Assistant Professor at the University of Latvia Earth Science Department. She has worked in allotment maintenance for a long time now. She is convinced about the positive aspects of allotments when it comes to nature and community. 

The main problem is that allotment holders, which is the state authorities in the case of the Latvian city of Riga want to use these lands for other purposes. destroy this place to build more urbanistic surrounding – parking plots, new offices etc. 

Together with other activists Abolina has created a group for one specific allotment cooperative. This group fights to protect the area from Riga city council wish – new school building in the same area. "We have found owners for all the land pieces of this allotment cooperative, so the city council can`t put the area under construction, because land is used for the material purposes – to grow a food. People pay rent for their land piece, so it is untouchable”, Abolina explained. 

People starts to set up places for planting latest in the end of March. Photo by Ilze Grunska.

But is this really worth it and do people value allotments? Some three or four years ago the possible answer you could get in Riga was: "There are so many free plots, and only old people use them”.

Things have changed though. More and more young people are interested to get their own free spot to grow fresh vegetables, spices and apple trees or bushes with berries. However there are still a lot of free allotments around the district of Riga. Some of them are too downcast and only usedby homeless people. "I think we can work with the homeless people to find a solution – letting them stay for a night in allotment houses, but asking them to look after the place in exchange. Society has created these persons who don`t have a place to call home, so we are the ones who should help reintegrate them”, says Abolina.

Young people choose to take care ofallotments to grow fresh food on their own. Paula and Kārlis took a piece of land two years ago and they are happy to have apples during the autumn and blackcurrant and strawberies in the summertime. "We know where our food comes from. They are fruits of our labor. The variety of fruit trees and the lines of dills – these simple presents from nature make us feelhappier”, said Paula with a smile on her face.

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