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City of Gdańsk – developing new ideas in the face of the changing climate

11 May, 2021 - 15:06

Gdańsk University of Technology is a partner of the BSR WATER platform, sharing knowledge and experience from Poland. The university is leading research in four main priority areas, realized in Advanced Materials Center, EkoTech Center, BioTechMed Center or Digital Technologies Center. Research and expertise related to different aspect of water management and environment protection are part of activity carried out in EkoTech Center. Researchers are used to conduct investigation within different financing sources where very important place is dedicated to programs connected to protections and resilience of the Baltic Sea.


Interview with Magdalena Gajewska

Professor at the Gdańsk University of Technology (GUT)

BSR WATER: The Gdańsk University of Technology is actively supporting the City of Gdańsk in development and implementation of solutions related to sustainable urban water management. What are the main water challenges the City of Gdańsk is facing?

Magdalena Gajewska: Yes, indeed, for many years the GUT has been actively cooperating and supporting the City of Gdańsk and its in-house companies dealing with municipal management on various levels.

City of Gdańsk is facing many challenges related to the urban water management. We experience more often flash floods caused by urbanization and in the last years mainly by climate change, as well as unpredictable precipitation or draught periods. We observe symptoms of the urban stream syndrome including e.g. water pollutions, loss of biodiversity and hydraulic overloading of urban streams. Such phenomena in consequence are causing periodical challenges with the Gulf of Gdańsk’s water quality and algae blooms.

BSR WATER: How is the City of Gdańsk addressing these challenges?

MG: The City of Gdańsk works actively and on many levels. The city has wide cooperation with the Gdańsk University of Technology providing new solutions, and it also tries to actively involve residents in city issues, e.g. by organizing Deliberative Polling®. However, the most important thing is being involved in international projects, many of which are related to the exchange of experience and researches to improve the quality of life and environment in the Baltic Sea region, such as IWAMA, BEST or NonHazCity.

Magdalena Gajewska (in the center) with colleagues at the reed bed system launched in the CONTRA project for treating beach wrack, 2019.

BSR WATER: The BSR WATER platform developed recommendations for sustainable stormwater management. The City of Gdańsk has implemented many smart stormwater management solutions. Could you introduce us a couple of examples existing in the city?

MG: Well, indeed, there are a lot of nice examples, but very important is to understand how to create real blue green infrastructure (BGI) – not only a few facilities. Thus, in Gdańsk we have over 50 retention reservoirs created on the streams, then, we have plenty of reservoirs only for overflows from the stormwater network and since 2016 a dozen of rain gardens have been constructed. Still, a lot remains to be done to create the BGI in the city towards better adaptation to climate change.

BSR WATER: If we think about the Baltic Sea Region, should its cities introduce more nature-based solutions? Is it an ideal approach to a healthy urban ecosystem, or are there any obstacles involved – infrastructural, financial, institutional?

MG: I think that the nature-based solutions (NBS) are the future. The only technical solutions, they provide ecosystem service and perfectly match all current trends and requirements, such as SDG, Circular Economy or European Green Deal.

I can see a couple of obstacles, one of them being the way the NBS is perceived. We are used to trust more the high-technical solutions. Another issue is the availability of knowledge about NBS and the understanding that they are technical and engineering solutions that require appropriate knowledge and very often the multidisciplinary cooperation. NBS often need individual design based on designer knowledge rather than on selection of different items from catalogues. In this respect, only the creativity of the designer is the limitation and not the existing infrastructure.

BSR WATER: On 9-10 June 2021, these topics will be further addressed at the BSR WATER online conference, which will introduce a rich variety of smart water management and operation practices implemented in Gdańsk. Could you give us a teaser of what to look forward to?

MG: The first day will be dedicated to the achievement of the RBR (Reviling Baltic Resilience) project aiming to improve the quality of the Baltic Sea by retaining or reducing emissions at source. Four different research tasks related to applications will be discussed from the perspective of the different BSR partners.

During the second day, we will have the opportunity to get acquainted with the activities aimed at improving the Baltic Sea protection from the perspective of Gdańsk, i.e. the involvement of the Gdańsk University of Technology and municipal companies. Both soft solutions, such as educational campaigns, as well as examples of new technologies, such as NBS, which may contribute to the improvement of the quality of the Baltic Sea, will be presented.

Good to know

The online summer conference of the BSR WATER will take place on 9–10 June 2021 to learn and discuss around the topic "Accelerating the transition to clean and healthy Baltic Sea". The participation is open, and everyone is warmly welcome to take part!