In this city labs we discussed several ecological risks that occur in Zagreb according to the Risk map. These were: a) risk of floods, b) risk of landslides, c) urban heat island, d) risks of devastating earthquake, e) secondary risk of urban renewal after natural disastersWe specifically looked at the perspective of vulnerable social groups, namely elderly people that are affected by multiple risks and in city neighbourhoods where this risks occur the most. Participants worked interactively whereas first they were introduced to the problems, that worked in 5 subgroups (for an hour) and followed by conclusions in big session.

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Start: 09.11.2021
End: 09.11.2021


City of Zagreb

In this city labs we discussed several ecological risks that occur in Zagreb according to the Risk map. These were: a) risk of floods, b) risk of landslides, c) urban heat island, d) risks of devastating earthquake, e) secondary risk of urban renewal after natural disastersWe specifically looked at the perspective of vulnerable social groups, namely elderly people that are affected by multiple risks and in city neighbourhoods where this risks occur the most. Participants worked interactively whereas first they were introduced to the problems, that worked in 5 subgroups (for an hour) and followed by conclusions in big session. The timeline was at follows: 12:00 – 12:30: Introduction to ecological risks in Zagreb 12:30 – 13:30: sub-group discussions in 5 subgroups Challenges: a) risk of floods, b) risk of landslides, c) urban heat island, d) risks of devastating earthquake, e) secondary risk of urban renewal after natural disasters 13:30-14:00 Conclusions

Total participants: 83 Total students: 53 Total Staff members: 7 Total representatives of societal stakeholder: 14 local professionals and 9 representatives of the City of Zagreb

RISK OF LANDSLIDES: TOPIC: Landslide problem in the area of Podsljeme in the context of the elderly people A landslide is defined as the movement of a mass of rock, debris, or earth down a slope. It can cause great economic and social losses. Owing to its geomorphological and geostructural position, in the City of Zagreb landslides are the main geological hazard. City district Podsljeme is located at the hilly area of Medvednica Mountain. Landslides pose a great risk for the entire population of the Podsljeme district, especially for the elderly because of their age, impaired mobility and low social support. Problem of landslides is recognized by elderly people, experts in geological and mining sciences, experts in gerontology, but government and Centre for Social Welfare are less interested in this subject. This is an existential problem, prevention is not implemented, interventions are late and slow, sanitation of landslides is extremely expensive, there is lack of social protection for the affected population and ignorance of rights. Problem affects directly individual households, houses built on slopes of Medvednica Mountain area. This long-term problem is talked about only in cases of imminent danger but is not topic of discussion in purpose of prevention. Consequences can be mental health problems, economic problems, financial problems, marginalization, and social isolation. As for the origin of the problem itself, the main issues are the lack of financial resources to finance crisis teams and the lack of state capacity to provide accommodation to affected people. Also, the ruling party is insensitive to this problem, and stigmatization, discrimination, insufficient engagement of organizations and lack of cross-sectoral cooperation are present in the community. One possible solution to this problem is to create a crisis plan and present such a plan to services that are otherwise active in landslide cases. Those services are Red Cross, HGSS (The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service, it is a national, voluntary, professional, humanitarian association whose main objectives are accident prevention, rescue and first aid in the mountains and other inaccessible areas) and Civil Protection Headquarters, The Emergency Management Office, Headquarters of the Public Fire Brigade of the City of Zagreb. The plan would address the problem of insufficient coordination of these services in the event of a landslide, and also suggestion of providing first psychological aid to those affected by the landslide. RISK OF FLOODS: TOPIC: The exposure of elderly people to floods in Trešnjevka-sjever A flood represents one of the five estimated risks of major accidents for the City of Zagreb, with earthquakes, industrial accidents, extreme temperatures, and pandemics. Several city districts in the City of Zagreb are exposed to a very high risk of floods, including Trešnjevka-sjever. Flooding occurs due to large amounts of short-term or long-term precipitation that fills and saturates cavities in the underground, which causes the water level in the riverbed to rise and leads to flooding of the surrounding areas. The danger of floods in Zagreb is often underestimated. It is until such a disaster happens that it reaches the point of public discourse. The consequences of floods are visible on every aspect of life, including economic difficulties, negative environmental impact, and effects on physical and mental health. Trešnjevka-sjever is a city district with a large population of elderly people, which are especially vulnerable to the negative consequences of floods. Older people are less mobile, have a weakened immune system and therefore get sick more often, they need a higher level of health care, and such a traumatic experience affects their biological, psychological and social functioning more intensely. Experts express dissatisfaction with existing action plans in the event of a flood crisis. They are not sufficiently involved in making such plans and there is no comprehensive plan that identifies all the resources that can help. Exposure of the elderly to floods directly and indirectly endangers their mental and physical health through the possibility of injury, pollution of drinking water, the spread of bacteria, diseases and infections, mold, increased spending, stress, anxiety and other internalized problems. Elderly people living in single-storey buildings, immobile or with limited mobility, elderly people living alone and with low incomes, people living in the Trešnjevka-sjever area with poor drainage pipe infrastructure (Selska Street) are particularly at risk of negative consequences to their mental and physical health. Older people with previous health problems and a weak immune system, and older people who are not informed about the work of institutions and the services they offer during a flood crisis can also suffer greater consequences on their mental and physical health. Consequences on the physical health of the elderly can develop with varying intensity and speed depending on the type and presence of disease, infection, water pollution, level of flood exposure, pre-flood health status and the individual's immune system. The consequences for the mental health of the elderly also develop with varying intensity and speed depending on their ability to cope with stressful situations, previous mental health state, monthly income, willingness to seek help and the availability of such helpful services (counseling, support groups…), and if there are sources of support within their family. Possible courses of action focus on prevention, self-help and improving cross-sectoral cooperation. Some of the solutions include prevention workshops aimed at the elderly and their families, the development of a cross-sectoral action plan during floods, the development of a community resource database that will inform the elderly and their families where they can find help during a flood through posters at gathering places and leaflets. URBAN HEAT ISLANDS: TOPIC: An urban heat island Dugave (Novi Zagreb-east) An urban heat island (UHI) is an urban area or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to geographical features, climate changes, and anthropogenic influences (human influence). In the context of the city of Zagreb, a significant role is played by the landscape; lack of green areas, lack of water resources, widespread concrete and asphalted areas, urban planning (construction methods), use of environmentally unfriendly materials, car exhaust, increased absorption of sunlight and decreased evapotranspiration and many others. To obtain information on heat islands in the Zagreb area, measuring stations were used, as well as temperature data of the State Hydrometeorological Institute (DHMZ) and the Pljusak network. Measurements were carried out in the period from 2013 to 2017 during summer and winter, which appeared that Dugave and Zagreb-Grič are being highlighted as alarming areas whose temperatures are up to 2°C higher than the temperatures measured at the remaining seven stations. In further work, we will refer exclusively to Dugave as part of the city district of Novi Zagreb-east. UHIs have the potential to directly influence the health and welfare of urban residents. They can potentially increase the magnitude and duration of heat waves within cities, so they are particularly dangerous to the life and health of the elderly and the chronically ill population (Increased temperatures have been reported to cause heatstroke, heat exhaustion, respiratory problems, dehydration…). As an environmental risk urban heat islands are mostly associated with air pollution. Mitigation of the urban heat island effect can be accomplished by using green roofs or white roofs, use of lighter-colored surfaces in urban areas (which reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat), ecology-friendly urban planning (green parking, green bus stops…), use of green and blue infrastructure.

Problem: Neglected green and blue infrastructure Green and blue infrastructure appear as one of the main protection factors in prevention, but also potential solutions in the intervention, when it comes to the urban heat islands. The Green infrastructure consists of green areas - parks, tree lines, gardens, green roofs (or any symbiosis of flora concerning other infrastructure), and blue infrastructure consists of water surfaces - artificial lakes and/or streams, fountains, water access as pipes, arranged water supply, water gardens, etc. (in layman's terms water elements within the infrastructure). Within the area of the heat island in Novi Zagreb-east, there are these areas, but they are neglected. According to the population, there is a lack of lighting, benches have failed due to external conditions and human influence, etc. (in need of renovation, landscaping, and protection). The problem affects the inhabitants of the whole neighborhood/area of the heatwave but in different intensities. For most, the issue is discomfort and lower life quality, and for vulnerable groups, it comes to impact on health and endangering life. The neglect of green and blue infrastructure directly affects the reduction of natural ventilation, contribution to the greenhouse gas effect and global warming (higher CO2 concentrations), air pollution, reduced biodiversity, the emergence of urban heat islands, higher waste volumes, impaired aesthetics, increased crime rate, higher noise levels, increased energy consumption, etc. Neglected green and blue infrastructure indirectly affects the recreation of residents, health - cardiovascular and respiratory phenomena and diseases (increased risk of occurrence, control, deterioration), increased mortality due to strokes, increased chances of dehydration, lower quality of social life, etc. A permanent solution does not exist, only prevention (preservation/protection of green areas) or mitigation of already existing consequences (renovation, landscaping). While working on our problem, it's important to keep in mind the fact that green social work is a young area of interest. Also, poorly developed social activism, weak cooperation of stakeholders and resources, bureaucratic complexity of projects/ actions, poor legal framework, and poor implementation (small number of applications almost non-existent when it comes to environmental protection), negative anthropogenic influences (destruction of green infrastructure, construction of gray infrastructure), low awareness of the problem, etc. When it comes to directions of action, two directions are possible: organizing environmental action, such as renovating benches, planting trees, introducing new facilities in existing parks, or raising awareness of the problem through promotional content (leaflets, video content). For specific environmental actions, it’s necessary to examine the needs of users, possible participants and raise funds. For example, for the restoration of the park bench (which was listed as a potential interest of users on the internet reviews) we need to find volunteers who would participate directly but also participants who would fund the materials. On the other hand, in order to raise awareness, all we need are digital resources, and by sharing posts on local sites, social networks related to the local community, we are fulfilling our goal. RISK OF NEW DEVASTATING EARTHQUAKE: TOPIC: Risk of a destructive new earthquake in the area of Maksimir from the perspective of elderly In case of a destructive earthquake on the territory of Maksimir there are quite a few problems. There is a problem with infrastructure and non-application of earthquake-proof construction, poor transport connection (transportation of injured people to hospitals in case of a destructive earthquake), a problem with renovation and resources for renovation (it occurs that there is a poverty risk for elderly people), lack of accommodation for elderly people in a situation like this, unplanned construction that refers to narrow backyards where there is no place for mobile homes in case that people’s homes are demolished. There are also health problems connected to elderly or immobility problems, the fact that elderly are often reluctant to cooperate with experts such as social workers and at last there is a problem of inability to detect earthquakes. The problem our group is focusing on is: inadequate accommodation of elderly in case of another destructive earthquake. Elderly are at a risk of not meeting basic existential needs. It’s considered that those who see this as a problem are elderly people, their families and experts in the area of social care and welfare. And those who don’t see this as a problem are people from the local government and the rest of the citizens. Direct impact of the mentioned problem is on the elderly people losing their homes and indirect impact is the risk of economic and health problems connected to the elderly. The parts of Maksimir that are mostly affected by this problem are Prilesje, Bukovac and Remete because of their geographic location. This problem starts with prolongation of life expectancy so the number of elderly is increasing and there is less and less adequate accommodation and care for that population. Also, local government’s resources are not targeted to making extra accommodation capacity. Poverty has become a complex social phenomenon. Apart from children, the young, the unemployed and the disabled, senior citizens are at the highest risk of poverty. Senior citizens are people older than 65. Poverty risk rate, according to age and sex, is the highest among the people in that age group. There is a high possibility that the elderly would not be able to rebuild their homes with such low incomes or no incomes at all. The course of that problem could be controlled by building new institutions designed for taking care of the elderly, allowing people who lost their homes to be put in “social housing” of Grad Zagreb (abandoned flats) and education of the elderly in how to act in case of a natural disaster such as an earthquake. In addition to that, another way for turning the course of the problem in a positive direction is advocating for channelling local resources into funds for needed help for the elderly. The consequences that this problem leaves are elderly people living in inadequate conditions due to lack of accommodation.


The broader analyzed problem is the ramifications of the Zagreb earthquake from the viewpoint of the elderly population of Lower town neighborhood of Zagreb. The viewpoint of the elderly is of particular interest since this neighborhood has more citizens in said category per capita than all the other neighborhoods of the city, the buildings in the neighborhood were severely affected by the earthquake displacing the citizens to housings belonging to immediate family if lucky or, temporary shelters until the damaged buildings are rebuilt. Even though a secure housing situation is a key part of life quality, aside from that, other needs not specific only for the elderly population but important for them need to be available to them. These pertain to easily available medical facilities, facilities that tackle social isolation of the elderly via various activities, activities meant to improve the physical health of the elderly etc. Social workers and their engagement on these issues are a key factor for greater community strength and resilience in crisis situations. A narrower problem pertaining to the topic is the issue of awareness of the broader population about the needs of the elderly specifically in crisis situations. Even though psychological help to all citizens was isolated as important it is even more so for all vulnerable groups in the population. Social isolation of the elderly, accentuated by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially for those without immediate family support, jeopardized sense of stability and security for those with damaged housing, or, for Lower town not uncommon, housing that was left unfit to live in, further emphasizes the importance of crisis interventions that must be free and readily available. Since the inadequacies are most visible in crisis situations it is clear that we need to use this crisis to identify and develop a plan on how to amend all of the flaws that are present in current plans. Aside from the aforementioned, crisis accommodation capacities need to be reinforced so that there is no more need to accommodate one vulnerable group of citizens over another. Even though the accommodation capacities are primarily a state issue this crisis has made clear that as many members of the community as possible need to be involved in strengthening and safeguarding the most vulnerable groups that form it to assure that the next crisis can be dealt with more easily. Possible directions of action include contacting non-governmental organizations which deal with the elderly and their specific needs. Establishing a three-way collaboration between the NGOs, Social Welfare Center and volunteer center and prompting them to establish a department in which crisis intervention and recruitment of volunteers for this specific activity would be a central topic (similarly there already is a department for foster care which can be looked at as a starting point). Financing would be done through EU funds. Publishing a recruitment notice on the Social Work Studies notice boards, web-site etc.


UNIC CityLabs | Urban resilience | ecological risks | climate change


Natural disasters

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Panel discussion



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