Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by Ursula Bach


Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia with a population of 393,222 and population density of 2,781 inhabitants per km2. It is a coastal city on the Gulf of Finland of the Baltic Sea and is an old historic city with an interesting past. There have been many changes in the city since Estonian independence in 1991 as the previous Soviet era imposed development restrictions. In 1997, the Old Town of Tallinn earned recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its medieval architecture. The park network of Tallinn is uniquely established on the bastion belt around the Old Town with 90 m2 of public green areas and 207 m² of green areas per capita. Protected areas at the local or state level make up 19.5% of Tallinn's area and the Natura 2000 network of protected areas covers 8.2% of the territory.

Tallinn had a history of more polluting heavy industries including minerals and paper. Today, there is no major industry and the city is fostering entrepreneurship and has put in place facilities to connect academic institutions with new and developing technology companies.

Tallinn has demonstrated some very good practices with regards to Noise and related monitoring. The noise strategy starts from the planning stages. All noise plans have clearly defined noise zoning and limits associated with each area and activity. A noise impact survey must be carried out on any action that may cause conflict, and a set of potential solutions must be presented, and implemented before any activity can start. This is all possible due to the significant strategic noise mapping and action plans that have been produced by the city. Tallinn has also identified and categorised quiet areas in the city and carried out works to allow pedestrian access to avail of and enjoy these amenities. The city has mechanisms to inform and raise awareness of residents on the importance of living in quiet areas, and it has also implemented some participatory measures to get citizens involved in mapping and action plans.

Tallinn has been focusing on developments in a range of water related areas and includes recent improvements made to its shore and lake protection measures and has a blue flag for the high quality of its bathing water. Other projects of note are the sustainable storm water system that has been recently installed in a public area, also acting as a mechanism to raise awareness and communicate issues to its citizens, the HEAWATER river/waterbody restoration programme, housing requirements and water permeable parking areas, and campaign encouraging free tap water in restaurants. The city has also demonstrated its commitment to improving water quality through its efficient and effective adaptation of the new requirements for drinking water and waste water, which include the addition of biofiltering and sludge composting. The city has also put in place impressive plans for the future.

The city has a long-term strategy ‘Tallinn 2030’, which has the overall objective of a ‘healthy city environment and sustainable use of natural resources’ by the year 2030. This strategy is supported by several specific development documents, the Tallinn Landscaping Action Plan, the Rainwater Strategy, and the Sustainable Energy Action Plan. This integrated approach is key to successfully achieving goals. Tallinn was strong on public engagement when developing this strategy, with a ‘thought paper’, several workshops, good feedback process and quantification of the participation. In addition, a Strategy Unit has been created to ‘strengthen coherence between different sectors and set and achieve horizontal objectives’.