City leaders believe this regeneration project will not only improve the lives of Moscow’s urban dwellers, but increase the city’s prosperity. Their plans will aid the social and economic development of the city while also ensuring it can adapt to meet the challenges of the climate emergency.

Luckily the city is not building a green future from scratch. Around 50% of Moscow is already made up of green spaces of anthropogenically modified areas covered with vegetation, including parks, gardens, natural areas, parks, squares, courtyards and other public green areas. They include large forests in the heart of the urban sprawl, small rivers flowing and opening up into bigger channels, and the meadows and bogs which Moscow is known for. Then there are the historic manor parks with their expansive gardens. All of them contribute to making Moscow a greener ecosystem for people, plants and animals.

These spaces are protected and rich in biodiversity – in fact Moscow’s Red Book form 2019 recorded that in the city there are 569 species of animals and plants under special protection. This is an increase of 117 species of flora and fauna, including 86 species registered for the first time in Moscow. Of these, 91 species have increased in numbers, suggesting the protections in place are working.

As part of the ambitious greening programme, in 2020 Moscow’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin decided to create 26 new protected natural areas covering 1800 hectares. When this project is complete, it will result in 136 protected areas covering a huge 19,5000 hectares – that’s 7.5% of Moscow’s entire territory. This will be expanded again in 2021 with plans to create an additional eight specially protected areas, covering 280 hectares.

These new parks are being built on former industrial zones – regenerating forgotten or dead areas of the city and giving them new life. Courtyards are also being landscaped so they too can be transformed into green, flourishing spaces.

This latest greening project is building on the success of a tree-planting programme that over the past decade has planted more than 9.5 million trees and shrubs in Moscow. In 2020 alone, more than 70,000 trees and 1.3 million shrubs were planted in the city.

The greening project has sat alongside an increase in pedestrianised zones – encouraging city dwellers to leave their cars at home and walk around their neighbourhoods. Until 2011, Moscow only had one pedestrian zone: Arbat Street. Since then, 422 streets and public spaces have been landscaped in the city – that’s equivalent to 370km.

The urban greening project have already had positive outcomes. As well as increasing the physical and mental health of Moscow’s residents, it has maintained biodiversity and had an indirect impact on the economy and utilities. It has also made the city more resilient to the challenges of the climate crisis: increased urban vegetation counteracts water erosion, regulates runoff, improves air quality, combats urban temperature anomalies, and creates a microclimate.

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