When you go to Milan, around you are towers and neoclassical stone buildings, so the color surrounding you would be somehow monochromatic. Soon, however, that color changes to green. Italy’s fashion capital has a plan to plant 3 million new trees by 2030.
Experts say that the plan could set the city free from muggy, sometimes tropical weather as well as pollution.
Before urban forestation
Italy’s second largest city really holds high presentation or something that takes risks to stand out above the rest. That was reflected in an urban redevelopment project called Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) which was completed in 2014 after 5 years of skepticism.
Now, Bosco Verticale is actually twin buildings, residential high rise buildings, specifically. They’re located on the edge of Isola district near Garibaldi train station, and when you take a look at them for the first time, the buildings look like something that comes out of a fairytale.
There are about 800 trees, 4,500 shrubs, and 15,000 perennials (a type of flower). According to the architect, Stefano Boeri, the total amount of flora or vegetation that covers Bosco Verticale is equal to 20,000 sqm of forest (if the it is spread out across flat terrain).
Aside of promoting biodiversity, the development of Bosco Verticale has a purpose of reducing the urban heat island effect, filter air pollution, absorb carbon dioxide, and naturally regulate interior temperature of the twin buildings, as well as to improve life quality and color palette of the city, which is rather greyish.
Boeri opined that Bosco Verticale isn’t just a building that overcomes people’s skepticism. It’s also a comprehensive framework for sustainable urban building. And right now he’s working to make build similar projects in other cities with the finished twin building as a prototype.
In his opinion, Bosco Verticale is a “model for vertical densification of nature within the city that operates in relation to policies for reforestation and naturalization of large urban and metropolitan borders.”
Milani officials like the way how the forest is going up instead of out. After Bosco Verticale, they also acknowledge the need of more green space in order to combat the city’s environmental problems. For those of you who don’t know, Milan often ranks as a city with the poorest air quality among European cities alongside Turin and Naples.
And that’s why officials in Milan want to plant 3 million trees across the city by 2030. That’s considered an improvement since the city’s urban vegetation only covers 7% of its total land area. That’s even smaller than Paris, which is already a city with bad air pollution.
According to Colleen Barry who reports for the Associated Press, officials “estimate the program to boost the number of trees by 30 percent in the broader metropolitan area will absorb an additional 5 million tons of carbon dioxide a year…and reduce harmful PM10 small particulates by 3,000 tons over a decade. Significantly, it would also reduce temperatures in the city by 2 degrees Celsius.”
Boeri also thinks that forestation is an important thing to do in today’s time. “I think the theme of forestation is one of the big challenges that we have today. It is one of the most effective ways we have to fight climate change, because it is like fighting the enemy on its own field. It is effective and it is also democratic, because everyone can plant trees,” he said.
Mitigating Milan’s environmental problems
According to Damiano Di Simine, scientific coordinator for italian environmental group called Legambiente, future forestation will significantly reduce the urban heat island effect. Right now, temperatures in Milan during night time can reach 6 degrees Celsius higher than than in outlying areas in the Lombardy region.
He also explains how Milan’s geographic location makes pollution worse. The city is situated in the northwest of the Po Valley near the foothills of the Alps. That area might sound great, but it actually doesn’t get that much of wind, and polluted air is often not cleared out by itself and that horrible air quality will remain that way in a long time.
Di Simine said, “The lack of wind also accentuates the urban heating. ‘It means the discomfort from thermic inversions is terrible, because the climate is very stationary. Planting trees will help this.”
While urban forest seems to be a great choice to counter the problem, trees alone won’t be enough. People of Milan also need to limit their vehicle emissions. It is true that the city has great public transport network such as metro, light rail, and trams. However citizens still prefer to use cars and the city has a high rate of automobile ownership per capita.
You can imagine the traffic congestion and the vehicle emission yourself as well as the need to reduce that. Milan can plant a lot more trees, but the change also needs to be done by living a greener lifestyle.
There used to be periods when Milan had dangerously poor air quality and government placed temporary bans on driving as well reduced transit fares. This time, Milan is going to reenact similar policy by gradually limiting diesel vehicles from operating within city limits, starting with the older models. By 2024, the city starts to ban all diesel vehicles in the city center.
What do you think of Milan’s reforestation plan? Does the government in your city do similar thing in order to counter local environmental problems? Do tell us in the comments below. For a related reading, be sure to check out this article!