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Niš is one of the oldest cities in South-east Europe. It is a gateway between the East and West thanks to its exceptional geographical position on several routes that connect Europe with the Adriatic, Aegean and Black Seas.
Such a geographical position determined the fate of Niš over the centuries, with a history that remembers the Romans, Goths, Illyrians, Thracian, Celts and other peoples after them. The birth of Roman emperor Flavius Valerius Constantine in Niš in the second half of the 3rd century, gave the city a significant place in world history. Niš gained further splendor in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine emperor
Justinian I. Through the years, all of the world’s and Europe’s turmoil left traces on the city as well.
Today, Niš has almost 300.000 citizens, a regional university, and is the cultural and economic center of southern of Serbia.
Niš shares the current problems of the Balkans, Europe and the world. Older citizens know that they used to open their windows to breathe better air, bathe in a clean city river, and remember sledding and snowboarding in hilly city streets. All that happened once upon a time. Slowly, almost invisibly, things have changed. Niš records some of the worst winter air quality in the world. Pollution of land and water is a major challenge for the city and the region. Niš is heating up, while old urban and mobility systems of the city keep contributing to the climate crisis.
Today the challenge of poor air quality and the need for regeneration of the Nišava river are at the forefront of the city’s challenges. Their polluted state undermines local health and quality of life. Solving air pollution is therefore seen as the main priority to rally community action, which will open opportunities to transition to a clean energy system while restoring waterways, expanding sustainable local food systems, and creating a new local prosperity.
On the pathway towards tackling these challenges, partners in Niš are expanding a network of public-space placemaking actions, that are helping to build wider citizen participation and imagination for creating a better future for all.