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New unsealing funding programme in Upper Austria – press conference with Sibylla Zech

At a press conference held yesterday in Linz, the province of Upper Austria presented a new initiative to promote unsealing projects. Our professor Sibylla Zech was involved as an expert.

Mayor Johann Urwanisch, Professor Sibylla Zech and Provincial Councilor Stefan Kaineder (from left to right) standing to present the new unsealing program. Urwanisch and Zech hold a sign reading "Green instead of gray - unseal now," while Kaineder holds a lawn tile. In the background you can see shelves with plants, a white door and some decorative wall elements.

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Press conference with Sibylla Zech, Stefan Kaineder and Johann Urwanisch

Professor Sibylla Zech (Vienna University of Technology), environmental and climate protection councillor Stefan Kaineder and mayor Johann Urwanisch sit in front of a screen showing a paved area (labeled "before") and grass grids (labeled "after"). On the wooden table in front of them are a red microphone by Radio Arabella, three glasses of water, name plates, and a lawn tile. The picture is partially covered by a reporter.

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Presentation of the new Upper Austria Sealing Program

The heat waves of the past summer have once again confirmed what climate researchers have been warning about for decades: the climate crisis is becoming increasingly noticeable in Austrian cities and communities. A high degree of soil sealing, such as in Linz (the leader in the national per capita comparison), contributes to particularly intense heating of areas.

The province of Upper Austria now intends to respond to this problem. In a joint press conference with our Professor Sibylla Zech and Johann Urwanisch (Mayor of Pattingham), a new unsealing subsidy program of the state was introduced yesterday by the Environment and Climate Protection Provincial Council Stefan Kaineder. Through the new initiative, municipalities will be supported in carrying out the cost-intensive projects.

Funding is provided for the unsealing of built-up or water-impermeable paved areas and their transformation into a vegetated area or a water-permeable paving (partial unsealing). The unsealed areas must not be connected to the sewage system. All precipitation water occurring on the specific area must be infiltrated decentrally on site. The costs incurred by unsealing depend, among other things, on the size of the lot, the disposal costs of the demolition material, and the redesign (e.g. with site-specific vegetation). The Upper Austrian government has set the funding amount per square meter of unsealed area at a flat rate of €30, with a maximum of €75,000 or 70% of the eligible costs being covered. „Bodenbündnis“ (Soil Alliance) municipalities are to receive additional incentives (+€10 for the flat rate, +€5000 for the maximum subsidy amount).

"We have reached a level where it is no longer a question of avoiding future sealing, but of reclaiming land," explains Sibylla Zech. The new initiative of the state of Upper Austria is a step in the right direction.