The recultivation of the huge mining area Garzweiler is based on a joint vision
for regional development and new approaches for planning processes
Garzweiler is Europe’s largest open cast lignite mining area. Germany's agreement to entirely phase out coal mining by 2038 includes the end of Garzweiler and affects all municipalities in this area. To be prepared for the dramatic changes in the landscape, economy, urban and social development, these municipalities with 430 km² and more than 330.000 inhabitants decided to jointly create a vision for the future development and to install an intercommunal organisation to assist this development approach.
In a first phase (in 2016) the municipalities collected relevant material, informed the public and invited external planning experts to contribute to a one-week workshop to identify challenges and opportunities of this changes and to develop a vision or screenplay (https://www.landfolge.de/projekte). Using several approaches, this open and creative workshop agreed on four main strategies for a preferred economic, social and urban development and for the creation of new landscapes. They always include measures to start within a short term as well as mid-term and long-term measures (until 2086). The landscape plans include a “green ribbon” and three different kinds of landscapes: innovation valley, real lab and lake.
On the organisational side, all partners support and finance the installation of a permanent managing body: Zweckverband Tagebaufolge(n)landschaft Garzweiler.
Starting the process required first of all human resources and the readiness to work together across administrative and sectoral borders. Some funding was required for external experts and a publication. Staff and overhead costs of the new organisation are mainly covered by the municipalities.
Evidence of success
In Europe, most landscapes are shaped by human use. Post-mining landscapes represent the most dramatic type with new topography created by machines. But natural processes can start leading to new ecosystems and biodiversity. The reconnection with the surrounding landscapes is a big challenge: differences may disappear or uniqueness emphasized. The plan agreed for Garzweiler mixes options, questions romantic views of landscapes and turns challenges into benefits for nature, culture and society.
Opencast mining has been a controversial topic causing opposition and resentments for decades. It is important to show the enormous resources and opportunities early and in an open process, including all parties and the local citizens. This new approach is a first attempt to deliver to these needs.
Potential for learning or transfer
The scale of Garzweiler2 is unique. However, this large-scale project includes issues that have to be addressed (e.g. the revitalisation of former industrial and mining sites) ideas for innovative approaches to using unique qualities and opportunities at smaller sites too. The early and open discussion of a mix of strategies to cover social, urban, economic and landscape needs is a transferable approach for other regions too as is the installation and joint funding of an organisation to assist the municipalities in dealing with the challenges and resources.
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