Gzira is a small town in the central region of Malta with a population of over 13.000 people. It is heavily populated and largely comprises of built up areas and narrow streets. Given its prime location (between the capital city of Valletta and Sliema) a bustling seaside town filled with fancy restaurants, shops and nightlife — it has gained popularity for the Maltese and immigrants alike. Gzira is also next to the University of Malta, thus making it a great location for students. Its diversity is reflected in the myriad of restaurants and ethnic shops established over the past several years. However, the accelerating urban development has led to diminishing green public space. The increasingly busy city is also struggling with high levels of air and noise pollution.
Regeneration of a high traffic road
The pilot site is a high traffic road called Rue D’Argens. Flanked by residential and office buildings on both sides, the road sees constant traffic and has little to no greenery. Part of the site has been earmarked for potential high-rise development and consists of some of Malta’s tallest buildings, including a 18-storey apartments block. Like many roads in Malta, priority is given to parking. Implementation of nature-based solutions will include exploring areas alongside the road that can be transformed into wide pavements for walking, community gardens, as well as providing spaces for re-introducing indigenous plants.
The actions financed by VARCITIES are:
- Rue D’Argens: Micro-greening Interventions through a Participatory Design Process
- Citizen Science on Air/Noise quality to increase H&WB awareness
- Urban Biodiversity, Education and Engagement through a Co-Created Community Garden Project
The future city vision
The local council is committed to improve air quality through nature-based solutions, envisioning urban regeneration through greening interventions. The local council is also committed to support co-design and transition management approaches, promoting active citizenship, engagement and participation in the implementation of nature-based solutions.
The pilot site will contribute to the improvement of air quality and reduction of noise pollution, targeting the promotion of a healthy lifestyle (physical activity, recreation, relaxation, sense of safety, psychological benefits).
VARCITIES will finance three carefully planned solutions, supported by participatory processes for nature-based solutions and innovative measurement of air pollutants. The goals are:
- Increasing vegetation in the centre of the city
- Reducing air and noise pollution, improve walkability and general health and well-being
- Boosting civic participation, social responsibility, and environmental and sustainability awareness
- Developing innovative sensors
- Boosting community building and sense of belonging, mitigating the negative effects of gentrification
- Reducing car use and facilitate a cultural shift towards green transport
- Boosting sports and healthy lifestyle of citizens.