In Košice, the Mayor of the self-governed city borough of Zapad decided to prepare a climate change adaptation plan. Zapad is a relatively homogenous residential area, consisting of mainly blocks of flats constructed from prefabricated elements and poorly insulated. Despite the high density of population, there is a considerable amount of green space between the apartment blocks, making it the greenest part of Košice city.
First, a vulnerability assessment was carried out by the Carpathian Development Institute. The following vulnerability, exposure and adaptive capacity indicators were collected and analysed for 200m x 200m grid cells to identify hotspots of vulnerability and risk in relation to heatwaves:
- Percentage of people over the age of 75 and below 4 years;
- Percentage of people living in top-floor flats;
- Location of vulnerable facilities (e.g. nurseries, kindergartens, care homes for the elderly);
- Level of thermal insulation of prefabricated apartment blocks;
- Extent of paved areas with no shade;
- Coverage of green areas, and in particular availability of green areas with a tree crowns coverage over 60% and with surface over 2 ha (considered as the most effective in cooling);
- Surface roughness (height and orientation of buildings);
- Temperature distribution pattern (based on measurements during heatwaves);
- Circulation of cooling air and katabatic wind (i.e. downslope, cool wind);
- Presence of air conditioning on the city transport;
- Availability of medical assistance during heatwaves.
In addition, a survey was carried out with the local citizens on the awareness of heatwaves, knowledge of behaviours reducing heat stress risk, perceived need for adaptation planning in their area as well as on the preferred adaptation measures.
All factors were weighted considering their influence on the risk of high temperatures to human health, based on scientific literature, and presented on maps. The combination of all factors produced the overall vulnerability map of the Zapad borough. The analysis allowed the identification of areas that are particularly vulnerable from the social perspective and exposed to high temperatures. The results, combined with the outcome of the survey, informed a local government-led strategy including the implementation of the following types of actions:
- Improved shading through vegetation and artificial structures.
- Cooling of existing public spaces, including: increase of green areas, revitalization of existing parks and green areas, use of climate-resilient tree species, reduction of sealed surfaces, building and restoration of elements of blue infrastructure and water fountains. Among the various interventions, thickness of green stands in parks has been improved, aiming at 60% coverage of tree canopy.
- Cooling of indoor public spaces, including: improved thermal insulation, vertical greenery, shading of transparent openings, windows and displays, green/reflecting roofs, some use of air conditioning in most vulnerable facilities.
- Early warning system on heatwaves, developed in cooperation with the State Health Authority of Slovakia.
- Information and educational activities for citizens related to safe behavior during heatwaves.
Another action included in the local strategy was the establishment of a ‘climate-correct decision-making’ programme, i.e. building capacity of public administration; introduction of mechanisms ensuring that climate concerns are taken into account in planning and issuing of construction permits.
In Trnava, a similar approach to vulnerability assessment was taken, and similar range of adaptation measures was developed in the climate adaptation plan. Moreover, a former neglected open space neighboring a block of flats, kindergarten and care home for the elderly (thus identified as a location highly vulnerable to heatwaves) was transformed through removal of tarmac, planting of trees (to achieve 60% crown coverage once the trees mature), construction of a fountain, and provision of new benches. This resulted in an inviting green space offering respite during heatwaves, which is also being used for socialising by the local community. In addition, sustainable urban drainage systems were introduced to improve water infiltration and retention. The evaluation of the effectiveness of the measures is planned 5 years after completion of the project in 2019.
At the city scale, Trnava also encourages citizen engagement in adaptation through setting up of a municipal budget (minimum 10,000 euro a year) for adaptation grant applications. The adaptation measures can be proposed by either individuals or organisations and a detailed set of criteria ensures that they are in line with the city adaptation plan. To date, mainly awareness-raising activities at local schools are being supported.
The City of Trnava is one of the first cities in Slovakia with systematic approach to climate change impacts. The adaptation plan will serve not only as a tool to tackle heatwaves and urban heat island effect; it is also considered a prerequisite for drawing external resources from EU in the funding period 2014–2020.