NEXT – Nature-Based Solutions for Smart Cities is a Summer School is hosted by the Belarusian-Russian University in the city of Mahilioŭ and co-organised by Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg. It is an action summer school that aims to challenge multi-disciplinary participants to shape the urban landscape of Mahilioŭ and its community through working with local stakeholders and expert faculty, and producing innovative, smart and nature-based solutions to real local challenges. More specifically, the School aims to:
The School will benefit from the experience of Martin Luther’s researchers in dealing with post-communist infrastructural and environmental legacies, from local knowledge, organisational expertise and excellent facilities of the Belarusian-Russian University, and from the strengths of the international partnership assembled from all over Europe.
During the in-school period we will offer a number of highly interactive sessions designed to familiarise the audience with the state of art in the field and analytical tools; this will be followed by supervised group research, and then by presentations of research findings to the school faculty and stakeholders (see the program description). The topics for group research will be identified by students with a help of the School faculty and stakeholder representatives. To facilitate the process, we will prepare comprehensive descriptions of four case studies (see the preliminary Summer School program), each characterised by several interrelated environmental, land-use or social conflicts. The task of student groups would be to identify the particular problem they want or are capable to analyse and address given time and resource constraints, and to develop research proposals containing the research question, its justification and research methodology. We will collect research reports and make them available to all the participants, stakeholders and partner universities for curriculum development and learning purposes. We will encourage the students and supervising faculty to re-develop their research reports to academic papers; subject to the quality and number of quality papers, we will consider a special issue of an international peer-reviewed journal.
Prof. Christine Fürst, Head of Department of Sustainable Landscape Development, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg (Germany), course co-director
Prof. Kalev Sepp, Head of Department of Landscape Management and Nature Conservation, Estonian University of Life Sciences (Estonia)
Prof. Massimo Sargolini, School of Architecture and Design, University of Camerino (Italy)
Dr. Daniele La Rosa, Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture, University of Catania (Italy)
Dr. Anton Shkaruba, Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Central European University (Hungary), course co-director Attila Katona, Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Central European University (Hungary)
Dr. Matthijs Hisschemöller, DRIFT – Dutch Institute for Transition, Erasmus University Rotterdam (The Netherlands), course co-director
Dr. Marcin Spyra, Department of Sustainable Landscape Development, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg (Germany) Dr. Viktar Kireyeu, Institute for Geography and Ecology, Siberian Federal University (Russia)
Dr. Hanna Skryhan, Faculty of Construction Engineering, Belarusian-Russian University (Belarus), course co-director
Prof. Hans-Peter Nachtnebel, Institute for Water Management, Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (Austria)
Dr. Jennifer Hauck, Department of Sustainable Landscape Development, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg (Germany)
Dr. Luis Inostroza, Institute of Geography, Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany)
#1, Piačersk Forest: this is a c.a. 900 ha forest on city outskirts and peri-urban areas of the city of Mahilioŭ. The forest was for long a property of the Orthodox Church, and then belonged to the city with a portion managed by the Soviet Army. All that spared the forest from logging, however high land-use pressure and high potential value of the land for greenfield developers take a toll, and the forest is shrinking as a result of numerous legal, half-legal and illegal activities. At the same time the forest is heavily mismanaged that results in pest infestations and also overloaded by visitors; the recreational footprint is particularly high due to weak or no visitor management, in particular poor information and visitor infrastructure. Yet the forest is a habitat to several red-listed and endangered species, and is recommended by the National Academy of Sciences to be listed as a natural monument. The vision of the municipality is to promote further recreational use of the Forest, while the opinions of other stakeholder groups are split. The Forest (including water bodies located within it) needs sustainable management solutions, and these solutions need to consider conflicting interests of stakeholder groups.
#2, Padmikolle: this is a large area in the valley of the River of Dnieper in the downtown part of the city. A significant part of it is periodically flooded, and this helped to spare the area from recent development. It, nevertheless, was used much more historically, as one can see from a number of important architectural and archaeological monuments. A portion of the area was known as a Jewish district; it was completely flatted down during the WW2, and most of it stayed undeveloped since then too. Due to historical and geographical circumstances, the area is still a large green patch right in the middle of the city and it is a uniquely rich in biodiversity, with wetlands, floodplain lakes and hundreds of veteran trees. The municipality is interested in a re-development of this area to an amusement park with some lots allocated to developers. The redevelopment started all over sudden in 2016 and was put on a fast track in 2017. It is marked by conflicts with nature and cultural heritage conservation watchdog organisations and activists lamenting over quick developments disregarding and destroying important archaeological artefacts, veteran trees (against warning of the National Academy of Sciences) and wetlands. At the same time, broader public is very hopeful about the new developments, as currently the area is not easily accessible and gives to many an impression of unpleasantly wild. Solutions are needed to ensure sustainable management of natural and cultural heritage, which would be appealing to local stakeholders.
#3, The Valley of Dubravienka: Dubravenka is a small river with a very impressive valley stretching from city outskirts and further through the very downtown area. It was very important historically due to its fortification value and as water supply. The downstream part of the valley (located in the very downtown) was heavily mismanaged, and the broad consensus (however contested by the environmental communities) in the city is that it needs to be a straight canal between concrete embankments, with all the areas along the watercourses fortified and developed. The middle stream part of the river is still an alive watercourse with beautifully natural floodplains, and mostly troubled by eutrophication originating from large districts of countryside-like wooden detached houses and by occasional waste damping and storm drain outlets. There is no any particular vision for that part of the river as yet, although its high natural value suggests that it needs to be preserved and promoted. The vision is better to appear soon, as land-use and environmental pressures are growing.
#4, Bujničy: this suburban area downstream of Mahilioŭ has a significant concentration of historical and natural sites, including a Stone Age Settlement, an Iron Age Hillfort, a 17th century monastery, Pipenberg Park (an 18th century estate of the Belarusian Governor), WW2 Memorial Battlefield and fortifications, Zoological Garden, picturesque floodplain and gullied landscapes. Most of these sites are being threatened by rapidly expanding housing development, unauthorized landfills, and the excavation of building materials. Large areas are occupied by abandoned water treatment facilities (filter beds and cascades of settling ponds). There are several conflicting interests in the area. Environmental activists see this area as a major hub of the city’s green infrastructure network, constantly shrinking because of the housing development. Zoological Garden wants to expand to the floodplain area and Pipenberg Park. They have already constructed fences blocking the bicycle route along the Dnieper River and the access to the park for the local people and the visitors of Mahilioŭ Regional Horse Riding Centre.
The project is hosted by the Department of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) at Faculty of Construction Engineering, the Belarusian-Russian University (Mahilioŭ, Belarus). Its 16 resident and 3 visiting academic faculty (including 12 members with PhD degrees) deliver courses related to environmental protection, sustainable urban planning, OHS, industrial ecology, energy efficiency, management of industrial and natural hazards, and natural science methodology for all the educational programs run at the university, and supervise MSc & PhD students. The Department hosts the Research Laboratory of Environmental Technology, and student laboratories for civic defence, safe lifestyles, occupational safety, ecology. BRU is also working on becoming the centre of excellence in support to the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy in Belarus (http://www.covenantofmayors.eu). BRU offers high quality venue with all the classroom and webcast equipment required for high-level international events. E-learning will be supported through the BRU Moodle-based e-learning platform. The main campus is located in the downtown Mahilioŭ and enjoys a direct access to a broad range of reasonably priced accommodation and catering options.
The summer school is organised with support and in the frame of the following projects:
SMART-U-GREEN – Governing conflicting perspectives on transformations in the urban rural continuum funded by ERA-NET Cofund Smart Urban Futures