Environmental city Vienna – 50% green space
Vienna has been ranked the city with the highest quality of living in the world by the international consulting company Mercer for several years running. The city has also received top marks for a number of environmental criteria such as water quality, water availability, sewage disposal, sewage systems, etc.
Throughout the world more and more people are moving from the country into the city because there are more jobs there and farming does not bring enough earnings. As a result cities are constantly expanding. Open, unspoiled nature is lost. Whereas in 1900 only about 15% of the population lived in cities, in 2000, for the first time, more than half of the world’s population lived in cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants. And the tendency is rising. If the cities grow faster than the world’s population urban quality of life will fall and it will be hard to keep environmental problems in check. But it is different in Vienna, which ranks 179th in the list of the first 200 cities numbering one million persons or more.
Vienna is different
The comprehensive use of public transport and fast access to inner-city green spaces are indicators which justify Vienna calling itself a model environmental city. Vienna is one of the “greenest” metropolises in the world. An analysis of aerial photographs shows that more than 51 percent is green space – statistically, there are 120 square metres of green space for every resident of Vienna. This percentage is growing steadily thanks to the planting of new avenue trees and municipal funding for projects to green up courtyards and facades.
How is environmental protection organised in Vienna? Separate Administrative Groups are responsible for the environment. Various municipal departments are home to areas such as environmental protection, energy planning, canalisation, waste and water management as well as forestry and agriculture. Here, policies are devised and implemented.
The Department of Environmental Protection's staff (MA 22), including experts on environmental law, noise control, nature protection, air pollution control etc., is concerned with the legal and technical aspects of environmental protection. The main concern of the experts is to position present-day Vienna in such a way that in 50 or 100 years it will offer equally good, if not better, living and environmental conditions.
The Green City
Vienna is a green city. To the west and south the Vienna Woods extend into the city. The largest nature reserve in Vienna is the Lainzer Tiergarten (Lainz wildlife preserve), almost equal in size with Vienna’s share of the Donau-Auen National Park (Danube wetlands); each of them account for about 5.5% of the total urban area.
At Lainzer Tiergarten the original vegetation of the Vienna Woods with beech and oak trees has largely been preserved and wild boars, deer and mouflons can be observed in the wild. The Danube wetlands stretch out from the east of Vienna and cover about 2,000 hectares of land, forming the biggest continuous riverine wetlands in Central Europe, shaped by bayous and anabranches of the Danube river. The primeval landscape is home to many rare plant and animal species, some of them threatened by extinction.
By far the best-known landscape conservation area in the city is the Prater in the 2nd district which includes a stretch of the increasingly popular Vienna City Marathon. It lies right inside Vienna and forms part of the city’s approximately 7,500 hectares of woods (as defined by the Forestry Law); they are home to 80 or so rare animals and plants listed in the Wildlife and Nature Conservation Programme that are threatened with extinction.
35.4 percent of Vienna’s total area falls into one of several categories of protection. There are national parks, nature preserves, landscape protection areas, protected parts of landscapes, ecological development areas and protected biotopes as well as 429 natural monuments.
Vienna‘s oldest existing natural memorial is the 1,000-year old yew tree (Taxus baccata) standing at Am Rennweg 12 (3rd district), believed to be the relic of an ancient yew grove dating from Roman times.
Clean air and climate protection
Ensuring clean air in big cities is a difficult issue – all the more so when car traffic continues to grow or, at best, stagnates at a high level. In order to reduce CO2 emissions the City of Vienna acceded to the Climate Alliance in 1991.
The partners to the Alliance have set themselves the goal of actively contributing to rainforest protection and combating the global greenhouse effect. Vienna and all other members have pledged to reduce CO2 emissions in their respective regional areas by 50% by the year 2010, to stop the production and use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and to support the indigenous peoples of the Amazon in their struggle to preserve the rainforest.
A special Climate Protection Unit has been installed in the Chief Executive Office of the City of Vienna to manage its Climate Protection Programme, KliP. In order to fulfil these obligations the Vienna City Council adopted the Climate Protection Programme KliP I in 1999 and KliP II in 2009. The goal set by KliP I for 2010, namely to bring down greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent as compared to the level of 1990, was already reached in 2006. The aim of KliP II is as ambitious as that of its predecessor: a 21 percent reduction of per-capita greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 as compared to the level reached in 1990. Together with the 3.1 million tons per year already saved under KliP I, the implementation of Klip II will mean a total reduction by at least 4.5 million tons per year in greenhouse gas emissions.
These goals are to be reached by implementing efficient measures in several areas:
District heating and power generation: The ambitious goal is to raise the share of district heating to 50 percent through the further expansion of the district heating network of the municipal energy provider Wien Energie as well as improved efficiency and the use of renewable energies.
Housing: Continued funding for the thermal rehabilitation of existing buildings as well as tighter and higher insulation standards for new buildings are to help reduce heating demand.
Mobility: Vienna will promote measures and programmes to cut down traffic and reduce individual motorised traffic in favour of eco-mobility (the term denotes the combination of public transport, cycle and pedestrian traffic). Cycling is going to be a particularly important aspect in the future. Making pedestrian traffic more attractive will also contribute significantly to bringing down greenhouse gas emissions.
It is up to every one of us to avoid producing greenhouse gases so as to save the climate. The most important steps to take, and the easiest to initiate, are those to save energy because not every appliance, for example, has to be kept on stand-by all the time. Using energy saving lamps instead of light bulbs has already become a matter of course for many people. Energy saving lamps are more expensive than conventional light bulbs but they need 80 percent less energy and last up to ten times longer. It is also helpful to avoid products that are made of aluminium (such as drink cans) or by using (H)CFCs and, generally, to opt for local products with a long lifespan. Giving preference to food from organic farming is just as advantageous as switching from meat to vegetables, or eating river-trout rather than seafish and shrimps.
The most difficult step is probably that of making a point of using public transport or bicycles. Brief service intervals, cheap annual season-tickets, the introduction of all-night buses and the 24-hour subway service on weekends, provide a good alternative to private cars. These options should be increasingly used by everyone if only because traffic is one of the main emitters of ozone and nitric dioxide (NO2).
Air quality in the city is measured at stationary centres and by mobile measurement busses. Measurements are taken of ozone concentration, particulate matter (PM10), nitric dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. The results are analysed on an hourly basis and can be accessed at any time on the City of Vienna website (www.wien.at).
Drinking water from the tap
It is of great value to the city that the First and the Second Mountain Spring Pipeline, built in 1873 and 1910 respectively, supply every Viennese household with pure and fresh drinking water from the mountains.
The per capita consumption of water in Vienna is 150 litres per day – but this demand is easily met since, thanks to the Vienna Mountain Spring Pipeline I and II, about 95 percent of annual water supplies come from springs in the Rax, Schneeberg, Schneealpe mountains and from the Hochschwab mountain massif. With great foresight, Vienna’s water and the forests surrounding the springs were put under City constitution protection orders so that every Viennese household can be sure to receive pure drinking water at any time.
The water reaches the city under its own momentum in free flow through galleries without the assistance of even a single pump, and without any processing. On account of its gravitational power it is also used for the production of electric energy.
The First Vienna Mountain Spring Pipeline was officially opened, after three years of construction, with the inauguration of the Hochstrahlbrunnen fountain on Schwarzenbergplatz on 24 October 1873. It was 120 kilometres in length and soon became a symbol for liberation from water shortage and the danger of epidemics. By 1888 more than 90 percent of all inhabited houses in the then municipal area were served by direct waterpiping. However, because of the addition of numerous suburbs to the formal city area at the end of the 19th century the construction of the Second Vienna Mountain Spring Pipeline became necessary. Since 2 December 1910 this 180 km long conduit transports water in 36 hours from the Hochschwab to Vienna. In order to guarantee a supply of best quality drinking water for the people of Vienna water protection areas and preservation areas were proclaimed around the supply sources of the First and Second Mountain Spring Pipelines.
In 1965, for instance, the whole Rax-Schneeberg-Schneealpen massif was declared a water protection area. In December 1988 the Pfannbauern spring in the Aschbach valley on the Mariazell federal road was added to the pipeline network of the First Vienna Mountain Spring Pipeline. Since the addition of this new spring the whole of Vienna can be supplied with spring water in normal circumstances. Furthermore, the Forestry Office of the City of Vienna administers a total area of approximately 32,000 hectares of forest, mountain pastures and meadows in the Rax and Schneeberg area as well as in the Hochschwab massif, enabling it to coordinate the use of all country area, tourism, hunting and fishing activities with the requirements of spring protection. From the terminals of the Mountain Spring Pipelines water is fed from high-placed reservoirs into the municipal network.
Wastewater disposal and water protection
As far as wastewater management is concerned Vienna holds one of the international top places. 99 percent of Viennese households are connected to the public sewerage system which also plays a decisive role in guaranteeing quality of life in a major city. In dry weather Vienna’s public network of sewers, about 2,400 km in length, has to cope with around 500 million litres of wastewater every day.
The concept of “ecological and economical optimisation for wastewater disposal and water protection in Vienna” takes into account not only sewerage and the building of purification plants but also extensive hydro-ecological circumstances. Permanent control and supervision of the 3,000 or so water usage plants as well as disposal sites for waste and excavated material, particularly as regards observance of appropriate regulations, are of course a matter in a big city like Vienna – just like having a sewage treatment plant that uses the latest technology.
Efficient waste management
In 2010 Vienna was awarded the title “World City closest to sustainable Waste management”. It was conferred by the international waste management organisations WTERT (Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology Council) and SUR (Council for Sustainable Use of Resources) in recognition of Vienna’s efforts to put the idea of sustainability into effective practice and implement corresponding waste management strategies. Award criteria included data on waste production, recycling, composting and other waste-to-energy processes such as thermal treatment, fermentation and power generation from landfill gases.
How much waste do the inhabitants of a city with a population of over a million actually produce, and how is this waste utilised? Well, in the case of Vienna the answer is: roughly a million tons a year with an annual increase of 0.6–3.5%. When related to population figures that’s a per-capita amount of ca. 625kg of waste per year.
In order to cope as well as possible with this amount of waste a master plan was drawn up as part of a strategic environmental audit. This postulates two essential preconditions for a sustainable improvement in the effects on the environment of Vienna’s waste management system especially with respect to waste avoidance: separate collection and recycling. Waste management in Vienna is based on three pillars: “avoidance – separation – recycling”.
Although total waste quantities continue to increase, the amount of residual waste has remained largely the same. At the same time, separate waste collection (used paper, used glass, metals and cans, plastic packaging and bio-waste) has increased by almost 3 percent. Of course the best path towards sustainable waste management is not to produce any waste at all. Thus, to reduce waste quantities and to bring down dangerous waste is the ultimate goal.
In 2009 more than 100,000 tons of biogenic waste were collected with the help of bio-waste containers, among other things. Composting produces over 45,000 tons of finished compost per year, which is used mainly in organic farming. Waste that can neither be avoided nor separated is disposed of in an environmentally friendly way and used for power generation in the Spittelau, Flötzersteig, Simmeringer Haide and Pfaffenau waste incineration plants. Thermal recycling at these four incineration plants already covers 36 percent of the district heating market in Vienna. A new waste logistics centre right next to the Pfaffenau incineration plant will be put into service in spring 2013. In order to ensure all-year heating supply residual waste and bulky waste will be processed and stored in odour free, air-tight packaging for later incineration. Waste supply to other incineration plants is also possible in case of shortages.
For non-compostable biogenic waste the Biogas Vienna plant was put into service in September 2007. This fermentation plant generates district heating for 600 Viennese households from kitchen waste (primarily from canteen kitchens and inner-city bio-waste containers) and waste from markets.
Europe’s biggest forest biomass power station
In 2006 a forest biomass power station was put into operation in Simmering, Vienna’s 11th district. It generates electricity for 48,000 households and heats 12,000 households. Through incineration of 200,000 tons of forest wood chips and bark, 47,000 tons of heating oil or 72,000 tons of hard coal are saved each year. The share of electricity from renewable energy is to be raised to 80 percent over the next few years. The Simmering biomass power station will play an important role in reaching this goal.