Dutch city is preparing for climate change by replacing roads with trees

When it comes to sustainable urban development, there are a few things cities around the world can learn from the Netherlands. Take, for example, the Dutch city of Arnhem, which has recently undertaken the ambitious endeavor of greening up the city by replacing roads that are rarely used by its inhabitants with trees – all in an effort to build up climate resilience.

The move is part of a new 10-year plan for the city to better prepare residents for extreme weather conditions such as downpours, droughts, and intense heatwaves. As part of the project, the city will dig up asphalt roads and create shady areas around busy shopping districts after concluding that the consequences of global heating are unavoidable.

The council has decided that 10 percent of the asphalt must make way for grasses and other plants to better dissipate heat and improve the city’s absorption of rainfall. A goal has been set for 90 percent of rainwater to be absorbed into the soil rather than running off into the city’s sewers.

Much of the Netherlands sits below sea level and all the county’s urban centers have been asked to do climate stress tests to see how they might adapt to more erratic rainfall patterns, heat waves, and periods of high and low river flows.

Alderman Cathelijne Bouwkamp said the city was leading the way but that the council would also provide grants to residents who proposed ways they might collect rainwater or who installed green roofs. In its drive to remove 10 percent of the city’s asphalt, underused roads will be targeted and the municipality is investigating whether recycling or reselling the material will be possible.

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