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Integrative Green Infrastructure Planning (GRIP)

The project is funded by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, DANIDA Fellowship from 2021-2023

Rapidly expanding disintegrated urban areas in developing economies are presented with social, climatic, and ecological challenges. The design of green, health-promoting cities, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, has become a pressing matter. It is therefore time to rethink urban development in South Africa (SA) towards greater sustainability and inclusion. Green infrastructure offers a sustainable planning approach that integrates water-related benefits and socio-economic gains into cities’ ecological fabric to improve the functioning of urban ecological systems and the quality of public spaces for greater health and well-being.

Based on a research collaboration between AU and University of Pretoria, the GRIP project will provide new knowledge on green infrastructure in South Africa through an interdisciplinary research project that seeks to strengthen the integrated planning approaches in the national capital of South Africa, City of Tshwane (CoT). GRIP will facilitate lessons from City of Aarhus (CoA), in particular their holistic planning integrating social, economic, and cultural issues with urban issues such as non-motorized transportation, densification, water infrastructure and liveable public spaces. Through the GRIP project, a city-to-city collaboration will be combined with research that cross-fertilizes spatial ecology, environmental justice and landscape design, building capacities across disciplines, borders, and sectors. Knowledge will thus be co-created through reciprocal exchange of management experiences (e.g. organization and communication) and stronger technical capacities (high-resolution mapping and big data modelling of multifunctionality), and through integration of ecological knowledge (on species and habitats) and social gains (local identity, equity, justice and economic development, in particular).

Through a city-to-city collaboration, the long-term objective of GRIP is to facilitate a strategic transformation of the inherited social and urban landscape in CoT through improved green infrastructure management, multifunctionality, and planning. We test the hypothesis that improved green infrastructure  can increase quality of life in the city’s urban communities by moving towards a more livable, health promoting, equitable, biodiverse, and climate resilient city. The research design is anchored in a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach integrating a) best-practice urban planning with focus on green infrastructure governance and ecological design; b) ecological modelling across levels and types of greenness and related multiple benefits, and c) mixed methods, including surveys and ethnographic approaches, for assessing environmental justice, human nature relationships, and ecosystem services benefits to communities.

Principal investigator

Jens-Christian Svenning

Professor, Centre Director Department of Biology - Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity

Affiliated staff

Kristine Engemann Jensen

Assistant Professor Department of Biology - Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity

Maya Pasgaard

Postdoc Department of Biology - Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity