Imagine a greener, healthier Malta, where residents are actively involved in decision making and research. Then imagine citizens’ voices heard in the effort to enhance wellbeing. The recently-launched VARCITIES project, led locally by the University of Malta, is trying to achieve just that in four and a half years.
The Horizon 2020 EU-funded project is part of a network of projects working towards new, innovative futures together with citizens and other stakeholders that use smart tech to implement green initiatives (or Nature Based Solutions).
Malta is focusing on Rue D’Argens in Gzira. Researchers will be monitoring air and noise pollution, traffic and a host of other data to create effective Nature Based Solutions curbing issues we see today, from pollutant-related illness to lack of mobility options. From the very start, the project has involved different groups around Malta. Now, it wants to work with local residents to act as citizen scientists by monitoring air pollution inside their own homes.
The Malta team is led by Dr Ing. Daniel Micallef (Senior Lecturer, Faculty for the Built Environment) and Dr Edward Duca (Science Communicator and Lecturer, Centre for Entrepreneurship and Business Incubation). Four University of Malta Faculties are involved, together with the tech company Dartekk Ltd. (led by Mr Neil Baldacchino). Other key stakeholders include the Greenroads Company, Green House (NGO), Valletta Design Cluster and the Gzira Local Council, all with a common goal of helping create new green spaces so citizens may lead healthier and happier lives.
As Gzira’s sole public green space is being replaced by a petrol station, new nature areas are needed more than ever. VARCITIES wants to help empower citizens and create new spaces that are designed according to the needs and desires of local residents and other groups. After all, Malta needs to be greener and healthier for a prosperous future, but local project leaders also believe Malta wants it, too.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 869505. This communication reflects the author’s view and the European Commission is not responsible for any information it contains.