Baia Mare, Romania

2023-09-28 10:42:54

Baia Mare from a mining and polluted city towards a green, innovative and participatory city: SPIRE - Smart Post-Industrial Regenerative Ecosystem



  • Population size: 123738
  • Population Growth Rate(%): -1.30
  • Surface Area ( 233.5
  • Population Density (people/ 465.8
  • GDP Per Capita (U.S.$): 7240
  • GINI Index: 0.34
  • Main Source of Prosperity: industry, IT, trade


SPIRE proposed a revolutionary approach for reusing heavy metal-polluted land in the city with the help of plants and returning it to the community by:

- experimenting, testing and implementing solutions based on nature. Several successive plantings were made to find the optimal formula for using these plants

- using the resulting biomass to improve the energy performance of an educational institution

- stimulating the evolution of local economic businesses by means of bio-based new companies based on looking for innovative construction products and materials

- initiating "living laboratories", which is co-designed with the community, through workshops in the Innovation Hub in Casa Schreiber

- involving citizens and vitalizing local sustainable entrepreneurship through iLEU: a virtual system of rewards intended to encourage behaviours oriented towards sustainable development in the city and to support the citizens commitment to the project and, further, for various benefits and discounts at the level local

- changing peoples’ behaviour to prevent pollution

- developing a long-term master plan for the Baia Mare Metropolitan Area aimed at recovering polluted lands, reusing them, and expanding the bio-economy of the city.



Romania adhered to the 17 SDGs of the 2030 Agenda which adopted by UN GAR A/RES/70/1 in 2015. The government adopted the National Strategy for the Romania 2030 SUD in 2018, by HG no. 877/2018. The Paris Agreement was ratified under Law No. 57/2017. The country is prone to earthquakes. It is oone of the signatories of the UN Sendai Framework. The European NUA was finally validated in 2021 with the Ljubljana Agreement. Support will be provided under the European Urban Initiative: SPIRE project has been developed under this initiative till 2027.



Baia Mare is currently transitioning from its past as Romania's mining capital towards a new resilientsustainable development model. The mining and metallurgic industries (the last factory was closed in 2012) left a legacy of circa 627 hectares of land polluted by heavy metals (up to 5 times the acceptable scale) disconnected from the urban grid. The city is now coping with a set of challenges (including economic decline, depopulation, environmental pollution, and severe public health problems). All these challenges affect mainly the most vulnerable people.


The SPIRE project follows the triple bottom line at the nexus of environmental, societal and economic matters. It seeks to apply phytoremediation technics to contaminated land, generate inclusive  participatory land-use management while changing behaviours by recovering the city's health and the trust in authorities, and create new local bio-based value chains developing new green business models.


After 3-4 years of project implementation, a long-term strategy (2050) is expected, where resilience schemes will work hand in hand with risk reduction strategies, strengthening governance, enhancing preparedness, and enabling effective responses.


SPIRE is renaturing Baia Mare (in 5 pilot sites) through phytoremediation, a nature-based solution mapped and monitored through an iGIS smart system to prove the healing results for the city and its inhabitants. Thanks to the SPIRE Local Action Network, the co-design participatory processes has been implemented, and the iLEU, a significant environmental behavioural shift from citizens has been provoked. The iLEU digital reward token is changing traditional national and municipal rules and procedures. The project is also building a new culture of bio-based innovation through the SPIRE STARTUPS mentoring programme.


SPIRE combines cross-sectorial partnership with Baia Mare Municipality as lead partner and eight teammates sharing responsibilities:

Academicians: USAMV deals with contamination and remediation plants and soil/plant analysis;

Public authorities: Baia Mare Metropolitan Area secures the long-term project strategy;

Private enterprises: Green Energy and ARIES Transylvania deal with the SPIRE mentoring programme, bio-based models, and communication and partnership activities;

SMEs: Urbasofia and Indeco Soft underpin the knowledge of participatory urban planning and software development to create and implement the iGIS, iLEU, and Maker Space platforms;

UIA expert and UIA Secretary as project and problems review and advisors for a better resilience approach. 


The most important resources used were:

- UIA financing (1,262,093.60 Euro)

- the students and teachers who got involved in the planting and co-creation actions

- the community that actively participated in the Donate the Christmas Tree action

- Association of Maramures Entrepreneurs for helping people find new business opportunities related to biomass

- UIA expert Amaia Celaya involved in these activities, providing support & advice together with presenting the project in international meetings both by disseminating the articles and the project.

- UIA Secretariat who acted more as a partner in solving all problems and blockages that occurred.




SPIRE is a revolutionary project funded by the UIA programme - now the European Urban Initiative (EUI) -that provides urban areas with resources to test new and unproven solutions to address outstanding challenges. First, the project applies a Nature-based Solution called phytoremediation to heal the urban soil from heavy-metal contamination: the willow roots can extract heavy metals from the soil if they have enough time (5 to 15 years). It is the first time it has been tested in a highly contaminated city with severe public health problems. Second, the project considers co-design participatory processes with citizens through the SPIRE Local Action Network, created to this end. Also, it counts on young entrepreneurs through the SPIRE STARTUPS mentoring programme, building a new culture of bio-based innovation for businesses in a city that suffers high levels of unemployment among the youth. Third, the solutions are publicly monitored through an iGIS smart system to transform these actions into pragmatic environmental facts. Along with this technology, a digital token has been created as an app: the iLEU is provoking - not without difficulties - an environmental behavioral shift related to proactive transport (pedestrian walks, by bike, on skateboard…, etc.) or circular waste mindset. Last but not least, the project has an operations headquarters, the SPIRE HUB, a physical maker space to meet and share experiences and learnings while using the machinery at the disposal of the citizens with the ultimate goal of uniting the community bounds to create a new 2050 urban reality.



From the social lens: (1) Urban health improvement due to soil remediation; (2) Awareness, knowledge and capacity building related to sustainability; (3) Citizens' environmental behavior shifts towards an eco-friendly culture.

From the environmental lens: (1) Circa 7 Ha of polluted land reclaimed for public use; (2) Urban landscape co-design and co-production through phytoremediation techniques; (3) Urban system re-naturalization and re-connection strategy.

From the economic lens: (1) Underused local resources stimulation; (2) Bio-based products and business models; (3) Bio-based energy supply to reduce the overall GHG emissions in Baia Mare.


The SPIRE Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are built upon the SDGs - particularly Goal 11 - and the EU Action domains affecting the project: Smart & Sustainable Urban Development Assessments and Nature-Based Solutions.

The eight specific measurement areas are (1) climate adaptation and mitigation, (2) green space management, (3) air/ ambient quality, (4) urban regeneration, (5) participatory planning and governance, (6) social justice and social cohesion, (7) public health and well-being, and (8) potential for a new green economy and green jobs, with a total number of 28 indicators.


Baia Mare has approximately 627 ha of contaminated land (up to 5 times over the acceptable limits). The SPIRE project tests phytoremediation techniques in circa 7 ha in 5 pilot sites: Romplumb, Ferneziu, Colonia Topitorilor, Urbis, and Craica, and their adjacent schools and communities; that are being re-naturalized and adapted for public use in the short term. The SPIRE Hub, a historical building rehabilitated in the city centre, acts as headquarters for further innovative initiatives.


Baia Mare has 123,738 inhabitants, and there are more than 230,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area. The population directly affected by the tests in pilot sites is around 50,000. The main targets are children, youth, and the elderly, without forgetting the people affected by diseases such as asthma and lower respiratory infections, cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal and kidney dysfunctions, nervous system disorders, skin lesions, immune system dysfunctions, and cancers, to name a few health problems linked to heavy-metals contamination.




Goal 1-All the lands on which the initiative intervened are located in poor neighborhoods

Goal 3-Soil contamination due to heavy metals represents a public health concern. SPIRE heals the urban soil through plants' roots.

Goal 4-Building an inclusive culture of innovation in urban settings is crucial. SPIRE provokes a new ecological consciousness for all.

Goal 5-Active participation of the local community to ensure urban re-naturalization is needed. SPIRE empowers citizens of different genders and ages.

Goal 6-Soil contamination due to heavy metals affects the water table. Plants prevent water contamination by decontaminating the soil.

Goal 7-Addressing urban synergies usually not contemplated is key. SPIRE installs a circular logic as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Goal 8-Addressing economic issues usually not considered is decisive. SPIRE proposes new "green" business models and jobs.

Goal 9-Baia Mare is transitioning from its past as Romania's mining capital towards a new sustainable social, economic and environmental development model.

Goal 12-New visionary projects for sustainable land use and Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) are proposed by the SPIRE STARTUPS mentoring programme.

Goal 13-SPIRE Nature-based phytoremediation Solutions are linked to adaptation and climate resilience and work hand in hand with risk reduction strategies.

Goal 15-The ecological transformation of five reclaimed urban areas thanks to SPIRE yields a more resilient and sustainable planning approach.