The Oslo-Akershus Metropolitan Region
The region has experienced continuous population and employment growth since Norway's independent in 1905. The region is the national centre of administration and distribution, and the hub of Eastern Norway. Oslo and Akershus are part of the Eastern Norway County Network, comprising 8 counties. Eastern Norway has just over two million inhabitants, almost half of Norway's total population, and geographically makes up one quarter of the country.
Population and geography
Just over 1 million people currently live in the two counties of Oslo and Akershus, which cover a total of 5,400 square kilometers. The 22 municipalities of Akershus range in size from 2,600 to 107,000 inhabitants and from 35 to 1000 square kilometers. The population of the municipal area of Oslo is just over half a million inhabitants within a built up area covering 150 square kilometers. Population densities vary within the region, the highest densities found along the four railway lines out of Oslo. Both Oslo and Akershus experiences a very strong population growth at present.
Transport by air, land and sea
The metropolitan region is the hub of Norway's network of national and international transport by land, sea and air. Connections to Europe are good by sea and air. Long distances means that road and rail capacity is limited along large sections of the main routes southwards. Road and rail transport to Stockholm takes 5-6 hours and to Copenhagen 8 hours. Air transport is essential for passenger transport and high-value goods. Oslo international airport Gardermoen, 50 km to the north of Oslo, has a large number of European routes, the most important single international destinations being Copenhagen, Stockholm, London and Amsterdam. There are in addition two airports south of Oslo, Torp and Rygge. There are daily car and passenger ferries from Oslo to Northern Denmark, Copenhagen and Kiel.
Migration and work opportunities
There is at present a labour shortage in Norway. High employment levels can largely explain the high level of inward migration to the region. The region has experienced a very high level of immigration from Africa, Asia and the Balkans since the 1990s. Inhabitants from all EU countries can work freely in Norway, as long as they work full time and are registered with the authorities. At present, there are thousands of workers from Poland and other European countries working in construction in the region. There are also many highly skilled people working in ITC, enginerering, oil and gas, life sciences, medicine and nursing in the region. International companies commonly uses English as working language.
The Environmental Heritage
The main difficulty in protecting the environment heritage of the metropolitan region is the demand for growth and the relatively low densities of land use in large parts of the region.
The natural environment
Environmental protection is a key policy in guiding growth within the region. The main conurbation encircles a basin at the end of the Oslo fjord and is surrounded on all sides by forest on low hills. Any expansion of the built environment is severely limited due to the high value of the unbuilt environment.
The Oslo fjord
The sheltered waterway of the Oslo fjord was historically the main transport route into Oslo from settlements along the coast of Norway and abroad. Today, one of the prime use of the fjord is for leisure pursuits. The shore along the Oslo fjord is under severe pressure due to the enlargement or new construction of houses and second homes, despite over 20 years of attempts to restrict development through government policy.
A large number of historic buildings, landscapes and archaeological sites are located within the metropolitan region. New construction leads to the loss of many valuable objects and sites. Modernised and specialised farming has also altered both the topography and the appearance of many traditional landscapes. Through registration and information coupled with use of the planning and conservation legislation, this is a continuous and important aspect of environmental conservation in Oslo and Akershus.
The region faces challenges in dealing with farming pollutants, in particular nitrates as well as, sewage treatment and water management in general. As signatory to the North Sea Declaration, Norway is obliged to reduce its release of nutrients into the North Sea. A large number of new treatment plants have been built in recent years in Eastern Norway and the sewage pollution level is now satisfactory. The Oslo fjord is a fairly enclosed basin, with low rates of water replacement.
During 19th and 20th-centuries wars and crises Norwegians experienced severe hardship due to food shortages. For this reason, the country's scarce reserves of agricultural land is strongly protected for national strategic reasons. A significant proportion of the Norway's prime agricultural land surrounds settlements in the northern and southern parts of Akershus, presenting a major barrier to urban expansion.
The region's large coniferous forest areas are also protected, for both leisure use and for its value as a largely undisturbed habitat for animals and plants. The forest around Oslo has attained a strong symbolic value, both nationally and within the region, and is enshrined in local and regional plans. As such, the Oslo forest represents a strong barrier to the built environment.