Another step further has been taken by the local administration in the promotion of the public/private partnership and in the care of the green public spaces. It is the case of Rome, where on 17th October 2014, a new regulation on the urban vegetable gardens and shared gardens was approved by the City Council, together with two more regulations, respectively on the management of the masts and on the adoption of the dog parks.
These three regulations stem from the merge of the old concept of the importance of green and clean areas in our cities and the newly born idea of the private/public partnership for the pursuit of the common interest. Some say that Italy still lags behind many States in this regard, and this is certainly true, but we should also give credit to the (few) milestones of the past 15 years.
In fact, few people know that long before the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol and of the global awareness on the importance of a sustainable development, the Italian Parliament adopted Law No. 113 in 1992. It might seem anonymous, but it marked one of the first attempts made to take care of the environment. Municipalities with more than 15.000 inhabitants have the duty to plant a tree for each newborn, within twelve months from the date of entry into the public registry. It was a very short law, with four articles only, bur surprisingly the Parliament came to an agreement and allocated 5 billion liras per year to this end. Not bad!
Recently, this law was modified, when in 2013, Law No. 10 provided for the creation of a monitoring board with the aim of assessing the results and of issuing an annual report to be sent to the Parliament. But Law No.10/2013 is like a matryoshka doll. Actually, it modified also a 1997 Law (No. 449), which laid the foundations of the public/private partnership. In fact, according to this Law, the public administration might enter in a contractual agreement with non-profit private companies and associations, for the pursuit of the common interest. Among the initiatives foreseen by this bill, there are also the reduction of CO2 emission and the creation and maintenance of green areas. Nevertheless, the real innovation of Law 10/2013 is Art. 6, which states that the regions, the provinces and the municipalities shall promote an increase in the green urban areas, while also promoting the energetic efficiency.
When analyzing all these normative provisions, we should take into consideration that the results deriving from the practical implementation might not be the expected ones. However, the ever-increasing awareness of the civil society on this kind of topics helped in developing a productive relationship with the public administration, by demonstrating the willingness to be the driving force of change. The events of the last years left us with a bitter taste: green areas are abandoned and unsafe places and unfortunately, public funds are almost dried up. For this reason, many people throughout Italy created non-profit associations with the only aim of taking care of the public gardens, areas and parks. It is a bottom-up process that spread quickly and induced many municipalities to recognize this legitimate interest and to approve regulations in order to move with the times. Consequently, cities like Parma, Genoa, Florence, and Turin endorsed a green strategy and on October 17th, 2014 Rome finally joined them.
Direct emanation of Law No. 10/2013, which explicitly promoted, facilitated and supported the creation of shared and vegetable gardens, the new regulation approved in Rome represents a great outcome. In fact, the citizens might participate in a public announcement in order to ask the custody of free plots of land and transform them into vegetable gardens. The limits are three: the plots shall be maximum 60 sqm; no GMOs are allowed; the products shall not be marketed. Quite feasible, though! On the other hand, the municipality undertakes to supply water and land, assuring reasonable prices to associations for the pursuit of social purposes, like educational activities for the schools. In fact, as the Council member for the Environment Estella Marino highlighted, vegetables and shared gardens have also a social function, being perfect places for exchanges of ideas and for encounter.
In sum, this regulation is a victory for the citizens of Rome and when it will be voted and approved also by the City Assembly, many people and associations will be ready with hoes and spades.