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Ville et biodiversitÚ

How to design an ecodistrict

Although ecodistricts are frequently presented as being the definitive solution for sustainable cities, there is no clear definition of what they are."The word appeared as a result of a wider public becoming aware of a number of existing pioneering projects," explains Taoufik Souami, a senior lecturer at the French Institute of Urban Planning who has written a book on the subject (1). Such projects, which emerged in Northern Europe in the 1990s, took into account energy, waste, transport and water resources, but hardly ever biodiversity."To the best of my knowledge, only two out of a total of at least ten projects included measures to protect biodiversity:Vikky, in Helsinki, Finland, and the Kronsberg district in Hanover, Germany.In both cases, construction was preceded by an impact assessment on habitats and species, and compensatory measures were applied," Souami goes on.
In the last twenty years, ecodistricts have started to take off, especially in France, where the Government has recently begun to take an interest in the issue.The first law to emerge from the Grenelle Environment Forum makes it mandatory for towns that have "a significant habitat development program" to create an ecodistrict by 2012.In order to spot the most promising projects and establish a frame of reference, the French Ministry of the Environment (2) launched an annual competition in 2008.
The Le Raquet district (3), between Douai and Sin le Noble in the Nord department, was one of three prizewinning projects in the 'Biodiversity' category in the latest contest.  "It was designed to fit into the ecological connection between two protected natural areas:  the Scarpe-Escaut regional park to the north, and the Censée valley to the south," explains Florent Chappel, project manager at the Urban, Habitat and Landscape Planning Department at the Ministry of the Environment. "To do this, around fifty hectares of green spaces will be developed there, divided into five parks maintained using differentiated management." One of them will be given over to sports activities, another will be an area of forest and play a role in protecting wetlands, producing energy from biomass conversion, while a horticultural park will include several plots reserved for organic market gardening. Before building begins, a species inventory is planned with a view to monitoring biodiversity. The district will also host an environmental education center.  And lastly, the project will place special emphasis on the treatment of rainwater, which will be carried out on site using constructed wetlands. The project began in 2008, and should be finished around 2015.

1 - Ecoquartiers, secrets de fabrication, by Taoufik Souami. Editions les Carnets de l’Info, collection  "Modes de villes".
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3 - To find out more about the Le Raquet project:

CNRS    sagascience