Valmiera – a new member of Sustainable Cities Commission
The UBC Sustainable Cities Commission is joined by a new member city from Latvia – Valmiera. Covering the area of 19,35 km2 and with its 24 967 inhabitants Valmiera is the 8th biggest city in Latvia and the administrative, educational, cultural and sports centre of the region. It is located in Northern Latvia, about 100 km from the capital Riga. The origins of the city go back to 1283 when the construction of the St. Simon’s Church began.
Valmiera – the evergreen city
Valmiera defined its slogan “The Evergreen City” based on a study of values that Valmiera citizens honour and of character describing the city. Valmiera is a city the third of the area of which is covered by green areas, mostly forests. 9,42 ha of the city are specially protected forest areas. The longest river in Latvia called Gauja runs through the city. Thus Valmiera offers vast potential for outdoors recreation close to everyone’s home and work place. During the research it turned out that the love of nature is deeply rooted into the lifestyle of Valmiera inhabitants. The constantly growing and economically active development challenges the close-to-nature based wellbeing of Valmiera inhabitants. Keeping this in mind, by adopting the city’s planning documents, the Sustainable Development Strategy, and by adopting a good will act – the Environmental Declaration of Valmiera City – Valmiera has intentionally worked for a sustainable development for years already.
The city of Valmiera is making every effort to offer a high-quality living environment to its citizens, meeting all their social needs. Support to entrepreneurship and industry has always been among Valmiera’s priorities and that resulted in placing Valmiera as the national leader in output produced per capita and according to the ranking of “Financial Times” among the leaders of European micro-cities in the category of foreign investment attraction strategies.
Valmiera economic development goes hand in hand also with its environmental incentives. In 2019 Valmiera adopted its Transport Infrastructure Development Conception. It is gradually improving its cycling lanes. Since October 2020 almost all city bus-lines are more climate friendly, as the city has got nine new diesel-electric hybrid busses. Up to 84% of the thermal energy used in Valmiera’s central heating is produced in the biofuel boiler houses reducing Valmiera’s dependence from fossil fuel and reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. In October 2020 a new biofuel boiler house started operating in Valmiera.
Having fully renovated 82 of its 167 multi-apartment Soviet style dwelling houses Valmiera is ranking among the Latvian renovation success stories. Valmiera has also ISO 50001:2018 certified management of municipality buildings and street public lighting. Currently Valmiera is one of the 19 Latvian cities replacing part of its street public lightning to energy efficient LED lighting with smart lighting management system. It is done with the financial support of Latvian Emission Allowances Auction Instrument. By the end of February 2021, 452 LED light bulbs will be installed. This will assure the increase of energy efficient public lighting up to 64,8% of total Valmiera street public lighting.
Valmiera has high quality waste management system, that, including collection of sorted waste, is available to every household, company, office and residential house. Since 2001 waste management company ZAAO Ltd. has been active in the sphere of environmental education, aiming at educating, informing and participation of the local community in improvement of environmental quality in one’s place of residence. ZAAO Ltd.’s environmental education programme is being implemented at Nature and Technology Park URDA, which is located close to the regional landfill DAIBE.
Valmiera agglomeration is using ground water drinking. Centralized water supply is available to 99% and centralized sewage – to 98% of Valmiera households. The connection rates are close to maximum. Environmental education, particularly on water management issues, is implemented also by Valmiera water management company “Valmieras udens” Ltd.
Having all kinds of educational institutions (from kindergartens to Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences and from formal to interest education) joined the international non-formal sustainable schools programme – the Eco-Schools programme –, having municipal companies providing additional environmental education services, and having specific sites for environmental education in the city, environmental awareness and knowledge is for sure among the environmental success stories of Valmiera city.
Seven Valmiera educational institutions have obtained evaluation by the managing organisation of the national Eco-Schools programme.
A room for development
Despite the good current environmental conditions, infrastructure and the incentives of environmental education and awareness building in Valmiera there is still a long way to go in order to minimize the city’s environmental impact and cope with current environmental and sustainability challenges. Valmiera seeks to improve its environmental performances understanding that a great share of potential lies within a cooperation and soft measures for environmentally sound and sustainable governance. Valmiera is thankful for the opportunity to join the UBC Sustainable Cities Commission hoping to be able to contribute and looking forward to successful cooperation for sustainable future for all of us.
Information prepared by:
Environmental communication specialist
Valmiera City municipality
Branding and Public Relations Department