Świętokrzyskie voivodeship covers 3,7% of Poland with 3,2% of country’s population living there. Northern and central parts of the region are upland areas. It is here, where the oldest mountains in Poland are located – Świętokrzyskie Mountains with their highest summit Skała Agaty (614 m above sea level). South-eastern part of the region is lowland.
54,5% of Świętokrzyskie region’s population lives in rural areas (in Poland on average 40% of population lives in the countryside). 45 cities (usually small units with less than 20 thousand citizens) and rural localities (with average population of 270) create the settlement network. Between 2000 and 2022 the region’s population decreased by 9% as a result of migrant outflow mainly of young inhabitants as well as lower levels of natural increase. These occurrences are accompanied by the process of population ageing; the percentage of people Post-working age between 2002 and 2021 increased from 17% to 25% (in Poland: from 15% to 22,5%).
The region is industrial and rural in its character, with a visible division into industrial north and rural south. Industrial activities are based on mineral resources (concrete plants, aggregate mines) and are connected to machines and mechanical devices production. Small-area holdings focused on plant production (crops, sugar beets, canola, vegetables, fruits) dominate in agriculture. Świętokrzyskie’s agriculture is characterised by low yield of marketable agricultural output. A lot of small holdings produce mainly for their own needs. The majority of business entities operate in services (73%), then in industry and construction (25%). Region is not an attractive place for foreign capital investments. In 2020 there were 174 companies with foreign capital here, which constituted 0,7% of this type of entities in Poland. Renewable energy sources have a relatively high potential in Świętokrzyskie region. The share of renewable energy in total electric energy production in 2020 amounted to 20,4% (16,3% in Poland).
Świętokrzyskie voivodeship is characterised by a large acreage and number of protected areas. They occupy 65% of its total area (in Poland the average is 33%) and have an excellent potential to develop tourism. There are 1 national park, 72 nature reserves and 9 landscape parks in the region. Attractive environmental conditions as well as big and unique cultural values constitute an important factor leading to social and economic development of the rural areas. In current strategic documents, tourist function is perceived as one of the key functions of Świętokrzyskie rural area development. It is accompanied by tourist and tourism-related infrastructure development, an increase in number of service providers, creation of thematic villages, etc.
Living Lab transitions
Mainly floods, droughts and air pollution are classified as the important threats related to climate and environment changes in Świętokrzyskie region. There are vast areas in danger of small-scale flooding and inundation. They are mainly located in the valleys of Vistula and its tributaries. As a result, the region is very vulnerable to the results of climate change.
Adaptive actions are taken, related to anti-flood protection. These are construction, reconstruction and modernisation of equipment and buildings to secure region against floods. Between 2007 and 2018 Program małej retencji (eng. small retention programme) took place. Currently, there are works in the Ministry of Marine Economy and Inland Navigation leading to develop Program Rozwoju Retencji (Retention Development Programme) for 2021-2027 with the perspective of 2030. Its purpose is to increase the index of water retention in Poland from 6,5 to 15% until 2027. There are 276 inventoried reservoirs with total area of 1696 ha in the region. Woodland areas and river valleys fulfil an important retention function. Woods amount to 27,5% of total area of Świętokrzyskie voivodeship.
Świętokrzyskie region has minor surface and underground water resources. Both region’s inhabitants and economy are more and more influenced by water shortages. The shortages are a result of, among others, climate conditions (lengthy droughts).
There are areas in the region which are endangered by agricultural droughts (in north-eastern and south-western parts of the region) and by hydrological droughts (in southern, south-eastern and north-western parts). The region is characterised by a high usage of water for economy purposes, which mainly is a result of energetics development.
In the last few years in the whole region there were occurrences of exceedance of air quality standards in the scope of wellbeing of people. Standards exceedance was related mostly to particulate matter and benzo(a)pyrene. The main reasons of the exceedance in particulate matter were: usage of fuel with high content of ashes and sulphur as well as garbage burning in boilers with low thermal efficiency, high share of individual heating sources using solid fuels in total energy balance, exploitation of low power energy installations, effects of emission connected to car traffic on the roads. There are actions taken to positively influence the condition of air. These are: exchange, purchase and installation of modern heat sources, installation of photovoltaic micro-installations, modernisation of municipal water heating installations and central heating installations, thermal insulation of houses, usage of mechanical air-conditioning systems with heat recovery.
In the scope of telecommunication infrastructure, the situation of Świętokrzyskie region is unsatisfactory. The percentage of households that have a device with internet access has doubled within the last few years, but the region is still in the last place in Poland in this category (in 2018 there were 32,5% of households equipped with a device with internet access; on average in the country it was 45,7%). The indexes of using information technologies in enterprises of the region were more favourable. In 2020 more than 98% of companies had access to fast internet, 63% of the companies had their own website (71,3% in the country), and almost ¾ of Świętokrzyskie companies equipped their employees with portable devices enabling mobile access to the internet (783% in the country).
According to Urząd Komunikacji Elektronicznej (eng. Office of Electronic Communications), in 2017 the access to
telecommunication networks measured by a building penetration index amounted to 68% in Świętokrzyskie region (82% in the country). The index reached generally higher values in 2017 in industrial areas, and lower in rural areas. Currently, there are actions taken as a part of building Regionalna Sieć Szerokopasmowa Województwa Świętokrzyskiego (the Regional Broadband Network of Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship). The aim of these actions is to increase the density of the regional optical fiber core network and distribution infrastructure that will meet the criteria for NGN (Next Generation Network).