By John Ensor •
Published: 07 Aug 2023 • 18:57
Image of a person being blown by a very strong wind.
In Finland’s capital, Helsinki’s residents are bracing themselves for the devastating floods, torrential rains, and prolonged heatwaves ushered in by the climate crisis, but is it an over-reaction?
On August 1, Kajsa Rosqvist, who oversees projects at Helsinki’s climate division, spoke to YLE, warning of the need for long-term adaptation to these harsh weather patterns. Her concerns highlight an issue facing the capital city of Finland, writes Helsinki Times, August 7.
‘In addition to combating climate change, it’s necessary to adapt to the new normal. The climate has already changed,’ she said earlier this month.
A plan is in development by Helsinki’s local authorities to address the changing climate, focusing notably on residual storm waters from heavy rain. Rosqvist emphasized the vulnerability of the downtown areas to flooding due to combined pipe systems and extensive asphalt coverage. ‘The greatest flood risk is in downtown areas because the piping capacity doesn’t suffice to control the masses of water.’
The initial phase of the city’s plan to handle excessive rainfall is expected to be completed this autumn. Their storm-water approach advocates for handling the water at its source rather than diverting it elsewhere in the city. According to Rosqvist, natural absorption or slowing the water flow is key to flood prevention.
Rosqvist projects that greenery will be instrumental in averting future floods, considering the expense of updating old pipe systems. With roughly 200,000 trees in parks and 30,000 lining streets, Helsinki appears relatively well-prepared. ‘We’ll need to set aside more space for green structures in zoning,’ she acknowledged.
This autumn, the city will test 17 parking spaces’ conversion to green squares in various neighbourhoods to examine how effective they are in flood prevention. Rosqvist remarked on the difficulties of increasing vegetation due to the restrictions posed by underground infrastructure. ‘At the same time, we know that trees do the best job at absorbing water, delaying the flow of storm waters, provide shade and cool the air through evaporation,’ said Rosqvist.
Greenery is already part of Helsinki’s urban fabric. Examples include the vegetated roof of the urban development division and tram rails lined with grass to aid rainwater absorption.
The climate crisis will test the city’s infrastructure, including hospitals and care homes. Helsinki is assessing the cooling capacities of these buildings during heatwaves. ‘I’d say that we’re in a hurry and need more resources. Luckily discussion on the topic has increased in recent times, and I’m hopeful we can make progress even quite quickly,’ Rosqvist concluded.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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