Rural-Urban Interaction in Latvian Municipalities

Zane Bulderberga, Irina Pilvere

Abstract


As a result of global urbanisation, the spatial structure of Latvia has changed over the years – more than 68% of Latvia’s population lives in urban areas in 2012 – showing increase more than two times comparing with 1935. One of the main focuses in today’s spatial challenges is to create sustainable development in both rural and urban areas. The effective and strong partnership is crucial in the delivery of rural-urban linkages and will probably mostly depend on local government. There are 119 administrative units or municipalities in Latvia – 9 republican cities and 110 amalgamated municipalities (towns and rural areas as one administrative unit). Based on the statistical data analyses and the authors’ previous researches, it can be concluded that there are significant differences in the economic and social indicators in urban and rural municipalities in Latvia.

The research aim is to identify the role of and the main factors affecting interaction between rural and urban areas in municipalities in Latvia as well as to determine the most important networks and partnership possibilities. To achieve the aim, a survey of local government spatial planning specialists was conducted; the methods of analysis and synthesis, statistical analysis methods, graphical display and scientific discussion were applied.

The results of the survey showed that more than 85% of respondents consider interaction between rural urban areas as important and there is direct and strong dependence of urban area development on the surrounding rural area development trends. The main links connecting rural and urban areas includes flows of people (employment, tourism, leisure, shopping) and flows of materials (resources, waste, goods and services). The results showed that the development of such visible and invisible flows between urban and rural areas in Latvia have a similar tendency as in Davoudi and Stead (2002) researches. As the result of rural-urban interaction in municipalities, an increase of employment opportunities, improvements of service accessibility as well as life quality are observed for both rural and urban populations. The most important factors affecting rural-urban interaction in spatial development specialists’ opinion were as follows: availability of public transport and quality of roads, national government financial support, and local business activity.  

Although the strengthening of rural and urban links is one of Latvia’s national government long-term development targets, there are no legislative or financial support instruments provided for municipalities. The elaboration of a development strategy with precise priorities, suggestions, and good practice examples at national or regional level would promote the effective urban rural interaction in future.

 

Keywords:

Rural, Urban, Interaction, Local Government, Spatial Development

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