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Before and after photos: bringing the planet back to life

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global call to action to save our planet, was launched in June of this year.

Throughout the decade, two UN bodies – the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – aim to reach as many citizens, organisations and governments as possible. They hope to convince them to join their #GenerationRestoration campaign and prevent, stop and reverse ecosystem degradation.

As part of the campaign, the UN Regional Information Centre (UNRIC) has found inspiring projects in our region that are already putting this goal into practice.

Take inspiration from gardens, playgrounds, rooftops and green squares and find out what you can do in the pictures below!

 

Green Climate Axes

Green Climate Axes in Ghent © City of Ghent
Green Climate Axes in Ghent © City of Ghent

The Koepoortkaai is located on one of Ghent’s ‘green climate axes’, connecting elements within a city-wide green structure. At this spot, cool air is brought from the Gentbrugse Meersen nature reserve along the Scheldt river and the canal Visserij, reducing heat. The green climate axes also bring greater biodiversity to the heart of the city. When the Koepoortkaai was redeveloped, the exact amount of space needed for walkers and cyclists was calculated. Emergency lanes for the fire brigade were constructed using permeable bricks, allowing them to soak up water if needed. Space for greenery was also created by removing 22% of the stone and asphalt surface.

 

The reconnection of the waterways

The reconnection of the waterways to the "Reep" in Ghent © City of Ghent
The reconnection of the waterways to the “Reep” in Ghent © City of Ghent

By opening the Lower Scheldt to the ‘Reep’ canal in Ghent, boats can navigate around the entire city centre, including along the Scaldis sluice at the renovated Oude Beestenmarkt. The reconnection of the waterways contributes to the city’s sponge effect, a new urban construction model for flood management. It allows fresh air to enter the city more easily and ensures that the connection for marine animals and organisms is also restored.

 

A primary school

Drakenhof primary school in Antwerp © Drakenhof
Drakenhof primary school in Antwerp © Drakenhof

Drakenhof primary school in Antwerp has had a green playground since 2020. The school is showcasing how you can restore ecosystems in the city and on a small scale. The new playground has only brought positive changes: children now play in greenery, and with a return of insects, there is greater biodiversity. Less concrete means rainwater drains away easily, so the groundwater level benefits as well. The students also learn about sustainable agriculture in the school’s vegetable garden.

 

A garden and a green roof

Marc Peeters’ garden and green roof in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw © Marc Peeters
Marc Peeters’ garden and green roof in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw © Marc Peeters

You too can make a big difference with a few small adjustments in and around your home. Just take a look at the garden and green roof of Marc Peeters from Sint-Pieters-Leeuw. He has transformed his garden into a wildflower field, a paradise for insects with only positive effects on biodiversity. The green roof also has an air purifying effect, and it offers better insulation and better water management.

 

A Green square

Maaseikplein in Ghent © City of Ghent
Maaseikplein in Ghent © City of Ghent

The Maaseikplein in Ghent is being renovated in phases. The parking lots on the square have made way for trees in boxes and picnic benches. A fruit orchard has also been planted since 2020, which gives a playful nod to the Ghent Altarpiece, or ‘The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’ (a painting you can find in the city’s St Bavo’s Cathedral). More than 1400 m² of asphalt has been removed, allowing rainwater to infiltrate the soil. The square will undergo further renovations going forward which will take into consideration the underground archaeology as well as the water management of the Lower Scheldt. Small patches of green such as these are perfect stopping points for insects and birds, where they can find food or shelter in the city centre.

 

A wildflower meadow

Bernadeth Marchal’s wildflower meadow © Bernadeth Marchal
Bernadeth Marchal’s wildflower meadow © Bernadeth Marchal

You can also make a big difference with just a few small adjustments in and around your home. Take a look at Bernadeth Marchal’s garden. She has transformed her garden into a meadow of wildflowers. It is now a paradise for insects and has a wholly positive impact on biodiversity.

 

What can you do?

 

The United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030):

Led by the United Nations Environment Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Decade aims to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on land and at sea. The UN Decade aims to bring together political support, scientific research and financial commitment to scale up ecosystem restoration with the aim of reviving millions of hectares of land and marine ecosystems. For more information, visit www.decadeonrestoration.org.

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