The City of Montreal announced it will develop nearly 30 parks and 400 so-called “sponge” sidewalks over the next two years to help the city better withstand the impact of heavy rains.
The city made the announcement a few hours before the start of the Adaptation Futures international conference on climate change, which kicked off Tuesday morning at the Palais des congrès de Montréal.
Mayor Valérie Plante is one of the many dignitaries attending the event alongside federal and provincial environment ministers Steven Guilbeault and Benoît Charette.
Since 2022, the City of Montreal says it has created seven sponge parks and 800 sponge sidewalks.
Plante wants to add 30 parks and 400 sidewalks of this type over the next two years in order to slow down the water that flows into the city’s sewer system during heavy rains.
“Depending on the different developments, the impact of heavy rains will be reduced by the redirection of water towards the river, complete retention until the sewer network is available, or even gradual flow through the ground.
“This concerns, for example, vegetated plains, play areas below, or even multifunctional in-ground pools,” the city explained in a press release.
More and more often, torrential rains overload Montreal’s sewers and put a strain on the city’s infrastructure, as was the case in early July when a month’s worth of rain fell within a two-hour span.
Authorities say demineralizing public spaces or greening urban environments to allow natural spaces to absorb rainwater is recognized as an effective measure for adapting to climate change.
During a speech before the Montreal International Relations Council at the end of September, Plante also mentioned the idea of creating “sponge streets” by removing asphalt, for example.
“There are places in the city where, with every torrential rainfall they find themselves flooded, so what do we do? I have to change the territory, I can’t let it go,” Plante said.
She added that some people have even found themselves in a situation where they are no longer insurable.
“It is incredibly sad to see people who come to cry in a district council,” Plante said.
More than 1,500 international specialists on climate change will gather this week at the Adaptation Futures conference to discuss best practices for responding to the challenges posed by climate change.
— with files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier and Brayden Jagger Haines