Environmental Justice in Accessibility to Green Infrastructure in Two European Cities

Catarina de Sousa Silva, Ines Viegas, Thomas Pangopoulos, Simon Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although it is well-established that urban green infrastructure is essential to improve the population’s wellbeing, in many developed countries, the availability of green spaces is limited or its distribution around the city is uneven. Some minority groups may have less access or are deprived of access to green spaces when compared with the rest of the population. The availability of public greenspaces may also be directly related to the geographical location of the city within
Europe. In addition, current planning for urban regeneration and the creation of new high-quality recreational public green spaces sometimes results in projects that reinforce the paradox of green gentrification. The aim of this study was to explore the concept of environmental justice in the distribution of the public green spaces in two contrasting cities, Tartu, Estonia; and Faro, Portugal. Quantitative indicators of public green space were calculated in districts in each city. The accessibility of those spaces was measured using the “walkability” distance and grid methods. The results revealed that there was more availability and accessibility to public green spaces in Tartu than in Faro. However, inequalities were observed in Soviet-era housing block districts in Tartu, where most of the Russian minority live, while Roma communities in Faro were located in districts without access to public green space. The availability of public green spaces varied from 1.22 to 31.44 m2/inhabitant in the districts of Faro, and 1.04 to 164.07 m2/inhabitant in the districts of Tartu. In both cities, 45% of the inhabitants had accessible public green spaces within 500 m of their residence. The development of targeted new green infrastructure could increase access to 88% of the population for the city of Faro and 86% for Tartu, delivering environmental justice without provoking green gentrification. The outcome of this study provides advice to urban planners on how to balance green space distribution within city neighbourhoods.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number134
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2018


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