There is an increasing debate on the introduction of a variety of environmentally friendly and innovative solutions in many areas, such as construction, production, food, smaller or larger farms, etc. “Green thinking” is becoming more popular and its integration – increasingly feasible and simple.
From 12 to 16 June 2023, employees of the municipalities of Latgale Planning Region, consisting of a delegation of 20 people, travelled to the municipality of Hamar in Norway for an exchange of experience, organised in the framework of the European Economic Area financial instrument programme “Local development, poverty alleviation and cultural cooperation” The bilateral cooperation project “Environmental friendly and innovative solutions” exchange of experience between Hamaras municipality in Norway and Latgale planning region in Latvia. The purpose of the journey was to gain experience in the organisation of the provision of services, in the implementation of environmentally friendly solutions and in the involvement of the public in decision-making.
As part of the visit, meetings were organised with representatives of the municipality of Hamaras, meetings with the organisation and structure of the local government’s work – management, planning and decision-making. During the adoption, the planning region of Latgale and all 9 municipalities representing the delegation were presented to the head of the municipality, Einar Busterud. The public park of the Hamar Trade Center, CC Hamar, is also visited, located on the roof of the TC and well-equipped with playgrounds, outdoor training devices, lounge benches, green zones and even residential spaces.
On the first day of the visit, the delegation had the opportunity to visit the CityLab, a municipal urban site, meeting with environmental and smart solutions experts, who informed about the activities undertaken to reduce CO2 emissions, as well as how urban planning and the use of digital tools in the provision of services are taking place, processing information. For example, with social-media Instagram, after publishing pictures/videos, geocracy is exploring which are the most popular places in the city where commuters and city guests go. On the basis of the data, urban development and modernisation activities are planned, covering the improvement of the urban environment, public engagement and tourist attraction.
“Citylab”, according to representatives of Hamar’s municipality, is the urban heartland of the city. Here is the opportunity to organize meetings, public consultations or any project and initiative in a creative and informal environment. In downtown, Hamar’s “Urban Gardens” has been set up, with cross-sectoral activities: children and seniors take common care of vegetables and herbs, and they will be harvested together later. There are also hives of drill bees in the garden. Cooperation also takes place with detention sites, as boxes of raised beds are made up of prisoners.
As part of the visit, two large and very important undertakings were visited for the municipality of Hamar in the area of waste recycling and heat production. Visiting Sircula recycling had the opportunity to gain insight into how the waste is sorted, how it is reused – composting and producing the soil, repairing objects and devices brought to a sorting point, which would then be offered to rebuy to the population at a reduced price. The delegation had the opportunity to observe the arrival and self-handling of waste, according to each specially designed sorting point, and to learn about population involvement and awareness processes by introducing such environmentally friendly and innovative solutions in the Hamar municipality and region. There is a shop in the area of the company where goods for which “second life” has been granted can be purchased: interior objects, luminaires, clothing, sports goods, kitchenware, goods for recreation and hobby, electrical goods, children’s goods, etc.
On the other hand, the heating company Eidsiva Bioenergy had experience in producing heat by burning waste. The company’s management discussed the environmental impact of a solution that is less harmful to the environment, whether landfill or incineration. Public education and information campaigns related to the recycling of environmentally friendly waste and their impact on nature and on people were also discussed.
The delegation also visited waste water operators, HIAS. All operational processes, as well as the “rescue” of the adjacent lake from pollution, which thanks to the company’s active and professional activities, statistically reduce the amount of pollution annually. A practical tour of the company also took place, giving an insight into how waste water is managed, what systems are used to make the process more efficient, how sludge and other chemicals can be used for soil treatment and enrichment at the end of the process.
In all companies, representatives of Latgale had the opportunity to see how to use all resources effectively, such as the use of thermal energy and gas from production processes for heating of company buildings, as well as for public benefit by heating the football area adjacent to the HIAS site.
During the visit, meetings were held with specialists from the municipality of Hamaras, who have competence for spatial planning, on how to develop the area and the urban environment, taking into account the benefits and resources of nature and how to use them for tourism promotion and marketing activities. Detailed information has been provided on the planning of pedestrian pathways and roadways in various areas, including challenging, mountainous areas, in order to become more environmentally friendly and minimise car exhaust. In conclusion, a city survey was organized accompanied by a guide, also visiting Norway’s largest lake, Mjosa, around which major urban development activities are organized. In order to promote the Hamar region, the three adjacent municipalities cooperate and have established a common tourism information center. The lake is used as a marketing target with the slogan “Visit Mjosa” to develop and introduce new services to attract tourists.
The experience-sharing trip provided a very broad insight into how municipal work was being carried out, and specialists had an excellent opportunity to explore and discuss the specific nature of their work. The knowledge and experience gained will be an excellent complement to day-to-day work and planning new solutions at both regional and local level, particularly now that the various SAM projects are actively starting to be developed. Contacts have shown that Norwegian specialists also have a strong interest in Latvia and Latgale, so further projects to strengthen cooperation are likely to be planned.
All participants acknowledged this journey as highly inspiring and useful, which encouraged consideration of the ideas of new projects, based on the experience experienced in Hamar municipality and the region. It was an opportunity not only to listen and learn from Norwegian colleagues, but also to engage in discussions and to set out how this is happening with us in Latvia and Latgale.
The experience exchange trip was held as part of the project “Entrepreneurship support measures in the Latgale Planning Region” of European Economic Area Financial Mechanism 2021-2024. Programme of the bilateral cooperation initiative “Exchange of experience in the implementation of environmentally friendly and innovative solutions between Hamaras municipality in Norway and Latgale planning region in Latvia”.
Working together for a competitive Europe!