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Green Spaces Making i Cities Happy , Healthy and Sustainable Places to lLive

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Green Spaces Making i Cities Happy , Healthy and Sustainable Places to lLive

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Green spaces have been valued and promoted by both royalty and the human beings for their distinct advantages, right from their landing on this planet earth. Green spaces are known to promote quality of life, promoting physical activities, making people and communities happy and healthy. In addition, they are known to be stress busters and provide space for socializing and promoting the sense of community and neighborhood. In addition to provide fresh air, green spaces are valued for connecting manmade and natural environment besides bringing back birds and animals who were forced to leave the urban habitat. Green spaces have shown their value and importance in the current crisis created by COvid 19. However, providing qualitative and quantitative green spaces in urban context remains always an issue considering the prevailing high land prices with green spaces being always discounted when compared with residential, commercial and industrial/institutional land uses. Paper tries to bring out the entire context of green spaces including its role, importance, issues and roadblocks faced in providing such spaces and options to make urban spaces a distinct reality along with its planning, designing, development and maintenance..

Green spaces have been valued and promoted by both royalty and the human beings for their distinct advantages, right from their landing on this planet earth. Green spaces are known to promote quality of life, promoting physical activities, making people and communities happy and healthy. In addition, they are known to be stress busters and provide space for socializing and promoting the sense of community and neighborhood. In addition to provide fresh air, green spaces are valued for connecting manmade and natural environment besides bringing back birds and animals who were forced to leave the urban habitat. Green spaces have shown their value and importance in the current crisis created by COvid 19. However, providing qualitative and quantitative green spaces in urban context remains always an issue considering the prevailing high land prices with green spaces being always discounted when compared with residential, commercial and industrial/institutional land uses. Paper tries to bring out the entire context of green spaces including its role, importance, issues and roadblocks faced in providing such spaces and options to make urban spaces a distinct reality along with its planning, designing, development and maintenance..

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Green Spaces Making i Cities Happy , Healthy and Sustainable Places to lLive

  1. 1. Green Spaces-Making Cities Happy, Healthy and Sustainable Places to Live • Jit Kumar Gupta Introduction World is urbanizing rapidly with more than half of the global population residing in cities and towns. Rapid urbanization, supported by massive increase in population, is leading to high degree of congestion in the urban settlements. This congestion is, primarily and essentially, the outcome of construction of buildings on every available open/vacant space in cities and towns. Accordingly, majority of urban settlements are facing a manmade crisis of congestion, involving congestion of people in the buildings and congestion of buildings on the land. In addition, uncontrolled rural-urban migration is putting enormous pressure on urban infrastructures, both physical and social. Major victim of this uncontrolled, rapid, haphazard and unplanned urban growth and congestion, is non-availability of adequate open spaces. Lack of community and public access to safe open and green spaces, has emerged as the critical area of concern for urban residents. With limited availability of green spaces, majority of cities are facing crisis of quality of life, quality of air and quality of development. Green spaces occupy special place in the urban context, because they are known to break the monotony of brick, mortar, glass and concrete in the urban setting. Green spaces provide vital lungs to the city for generating fresh air, making people feel happy and live healthy, making them more productive. Green and public spaces are known to be major determinant of quality of life of the people residing in the neighborhood. In addition, these spaces hold numerous advantages and make value addition to the residents, community and the places where they are created. Making provision of green areas for residents helps not only in enhancing the beauty and environmental quality of
  2. 2. neighborhoods but also remain valuable due to numerous critical functions performed by such spaces. Many cities and places are known to source identity from the quality of open spaces they promote, create and house. Defining Green Spaces Green spaces, by virtue of the numerous connotations and large variety of functions performed by them in the urban settings, have been defined differently by different experts in terms of; area embedded with grass, trees, or other vegetation, which is exclusively set apart for recreational or aesthetic purposes, in an otherwise dense built environment. Green spaces are also defined as places, which are generally devoid of any built mass but largely covered with vegetation,flora and fauna, duly supported with amenities for socializing, leisure and carrying out physical exercises. Such spaces are meant to provide universal accessibility to the people and communities, from within and without the neighborhoods, towns and cities. Green spaces, in the common parlance, are known as land parcels, which remain largely covered with vegetation, grass, trees, shrubs’. Parks, gardens, playing fields, children’s play areas and other natural areas, are other forms of green spaces found in the urban context. Green spaces are generally found to be multi-functional, used in different ways, such as areas of natural health services, children’s outdoor playgrounds and urban green lungs. Green spaces not only carry social and economic values but are known to be spaces which are revered, because of their capacity to create enabling and supportive environment leading to safety, happiness, and physical activities. However, in the parlance of urban planning and in land use planning, open spaces are defined as areas under parks, green spaces, playfields, recreational areas; areas under natural landscape, commonly open to public access but excludes area which are outside city boundaries and areas covered by streets, piazzas, plazas. These areas are also known as non-saleable areas and form integral part of the urban neighbourhood and newly created townships. They are prohibited to be sold and used for any commercial purposes. No change of land use of such areas for purposes of commercialisation and urbanisation is permitted. These areas tend to have minimal built spaces and are made universally accessible with special provision made for providing accessibility to the physically challenged. Depending upon the hierarchy they occupy, these green spaces are provided with toilet facilities and furniture for sitting and socialising. Green and public spaces are known to be major determinants of quality of life of the people residing in the neighborhood. Development and maintenance of these green spaces remain expensive and cost-intensive and require large manpower and resources. Considering the fact, that Greenspaces are multi-functional in nature, some of the functions performed by these spaces include;
  3. 3. • breathing spaces – promoting unbuilt spaces for sourcing and making available fresh to the residents in otherwise crowded and congested environs. • healthy spaces – encouraging and promoting physical and social activities in an otherwise stressed environment. • living spaces – for improving quality of life and generating happiness • meeting spaces – creating platform for meeting and socialization among members and communities at the local level. • playing spaces – incentivizing children and elders for adventure and physical activities in a safe, secure and healthy environs. • Spongy spaces – providing opportunities of absorbing large quantity of rainfall. • working spaces - creating opportunities for sharing, collaborating and co- operative working of people. • Valued Spaces ; creating wealth for the communities and the neighbourhoods. • learning spaces - creating opportunities for acknowledging, understanding, appreciating the diversities and complexities of flora and fauna existing in nature • natural spaces – removing disconnect and bringing nature and human habitat on the common platform • socializing spaces - creating options and opportunities for bringing people and communities to socialize for celebrating events, festivals and activities • activity spaces – inspiring, encouraging and supporting creativities, innovations and activities among individuals and communities, in a natural setting • growing spaces - providing opportunities for nurturing ,sustaining and making value additions to communities and individuals, by promoting activities and innovations. • Identity spaces- providing landmarks for recognition and distinct identity to the place, area and the neighborhood Why we need green spaces According to, ’World Health Organization (WHO)’, globally, obesity and mental illness are the two major health related issues, adversely impacting large proportion of population in developed and developing countries. Quarter of the adult population in England and a third of adults in the USA are known to be the victims of obesity. In addition, mental illness and depression, are adversely impacting approximately 5% of the urban population and their numbers are rising. Globally, 6 million people are stated to die every year due to air pollution. In London, two million people ,of which 400,000 are children, are living in areas with toxic air. 98% cities in low and middle income countries and 56% cities in high income economies; do not meet air quality specified by the WHO norms.. Greater understanding of process of urbanization and factors governing the urban health will be critical to make urbanization more rational , supporter and promoter of better health and happiness in urban areas.
  4. 4. Looking at the entire context , two public health issues involving obesity and mental health have genesis in the adverse environment created by cities, due to prevailing high degree of congestion, pollution and haphazard and unplanned pattern of development. This has led to emergence of large gap in the availability of basic services and amenities, essential for human living and development. With basic and essential amenities; physical and social infrastructure; services, open and green spaces, eluding majority of urban residents, prevailing environment helps promoting a life-style of passivity among majority of urban population. . Indian cities are known to have enormous shortage of green spaces. As against specified norms of 9 sqm of open space, Indian cities only have 2.7 sqm of open spaces available on per capita basis. This calls for urgently looking at the entire context of urbanization and its impact on human health. Majority of the health related issues and physical health challenges, can be effectively and rationally tackled and eliminated, through various activities undertaken in the green environment. Benefits associated with public open spaces / parks are known to include better general health; reduced stress level; reduced depression and reduced obesity. WHO studies also underlines lack of physical activity as the major global public health risks. Studies have also revealed that people using public open spaces remain three times more healthier than non-users. Evaluation made in respect of benefits of open and green spaces of the largest 85 cities in USA (population of 57.2 million), found health savings from parks, estimated to be order of $3.08 billion Considering the role and importance of green, open and public spaces, policies and programs evolved for making cities better places to live have also underscored the role and importance of creating large number of green spaces within the physical framework of our cities. New Urban Agenda has called for increasing safe, inclusive, accessible, green and quality public spaces. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, asks nations to pledge ; providing universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular, for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities. Even the mission AMRUT, launched by Government of India, has also called for,’ developing green and well maintained open spaces and parks to increase the amenity value of the cities Known as “green space”, “public open space”, or “park” in urban settings, these spaces have proved their credibility to serve numerous purposes, perform numerous functions, providing distinct advantages for supporting and making value addition to human living in the urban context. Numerous value additions, made by green/open spaces to the urban landscape, can be described in terms of ; • Decarbonizing cities by offsetting greenhouse gas emissions and slowing global warming.through large scale CO2 absorption.
  5. 5. • Making value addition to the quality of human living. • Making cities happy and healthy places to live • Maintaining, protecting and promoting biodiversity, natural habitats / ecosystems-creating valuable space for birds/animals in cities • Bringing cities and nature on the common platform. • Increasing property value of the neighbourhood • Promoting socialization and fostering a sense of community • Providing Social/ psychological benefits. • Providing resources for relaxation and recreation. • Giving distinct entity to their places of location • Promoting better relationship with environment • Making cities easier to bike/ walk • Making cities Cool- Reducing heat islands • Making cities sustainable and least consumers of energy • Making Cities Spongy -- Reducing flooding by reducing the volume of rain water run-off and soil erosion • Making large additions and providing home and space for trees and vegetation in urban parks. • Reducing operational/maintenance cost • Offering cost-effective and natural solutions for addressing storm water runoff; flooding and air pollution in the urban areas. • Making cities water efficient by promoting ground water recharging • Improving environment and minimizing Noise • Promoting Tourism, generating employment and reducing poverty. • Minimizing air, water, and noise pollution; improving quality of air/filtering air, by removing harmful gases like NO2, CO, SO2 and air particulates • Reducing healthcare /safety services and costs- Through healthy dose of nature • Promoting rest, recreation and physical activities on large scale • Promoting Mental Health ; Reducing Stress and violence; Improving concentration; allowing psychological restoration; • Improving productivity; Providing Economic stimulus • Speedily curing patients; positively impacting children. • Providing vital lungs to the city for ensuring constant supply of fresh air and O2 • Minimizing water pollution by absorbing heavy and toxic metals. • Promoting aesthetic value by beautification and enhancing urban landscape. • Reducing congestion by making cities more open/healthy • Offering reprieve from urban environment by substituting grey infrastructure with green spces.
  6. 6. • Promoting local ecology and environment by conserving nature ;creating ecological awareness; serving as islands of nature and biodiversity. Factors impacting availability of urban green space ; Despite the fact green spaces remain essential and critical for the health, happiness, quality of life and overcoming large number of urban stresses and strains, still availability of adequate open spaces on prescribed norms remain elusive in majority of cities and towns. Green spaces remain marginalized and don’t command priority , respect and care it deserves with agencies involved in planning and development of urban settlements. For majority of developers and colonisers, green spaces are considered shear wastage of land and resources , because these spaces don’t generate any wealth for them. Accordingly, all spaces , which cannot be used profitably; where no plots can be carved out for sale to the public ; areas which remain prohibited for development due to statutory restrictions; areas which form backyard of colonies and have irregular shape, poor visibility and accessibility , are generally proposed and labelled as green spaces. Competing urban planning priorities and high prevailing cost of urban land, also favour and prioritize the utilization of land for commercial purposes rather than green spaces. Statutory norms and standards made applicable at local level, generally exclude specifying the area to be provided as green spaces. This gap and missing link, is invariably exploited by the developers, to reduce the area under green spaces. In large number of cases, it has been seen that areas earmarked for parks and open spces in the planned colonies, at later stages, are either converted into open parking or divided into residential plots, which are sold illegally in the market Further, major challenge to the provision of green areas emerges from the unplanned, sub-standard and haphazard development taking place in the large majority of urban areas because in such development, which remains generally beyond and violative of all norms, ethics and standards of planned development, invariably eliminates the provision of public amenities and services including open and green spaces. Since majority of development of urban areas in India, remain beyond the planning framework, outcome of such development leads to perpetual shortage of open spaces in the urban context. Slums in the urban areas remain the major victims and are subjected to large number of health related issues, due to total absence of open spaces in such development. In addition, existing open spaces in cities are also not maintained properly and rationally and are generally subjected to total neglect. These spaces, over a period of time, emerge as no man’s land, and are then subjected to illegal occupation and encroachment. With the passage of time, these spaces are either occupied by slums or become breeding ground for informal activities and markets.
  7. 7. Lack of awareness, appreciation, role and importance of green and open spaces on the part of professionals, planners and authorities, regulating planning and managing the urban areas and financial constraints imposed by limited allocation of resources; are also largely responsible for prevailing acute shortage of open spaces in the cities and towns. Failure of the authorities and communities to understand the context of green spaces in promoting the health and happiness of communities, providing tangible and intangible benefits and yielding health related dividends, has led to according low priority to the open spaces in the planning and development vocabulary of the urban areas. Sub-division of land into small parcels on large scale and involvement of small time developers engaged in construction of group housing on a small land parcels/site has, led to the exclusion of the green spaces from the urban development. High population density, ever rising prices of urban land coupled with limited supply of land, inefficient functioning of urban land market and high degree of land speculation has cumulatively contributed to the limited supply of green spaces in the cities and towns. Prevailing economic considerations, and market forces remain largely responsible for lack of such spaces in the urban areas. Way Forward • Planning for Green Spaces;Cities, known for their complexties, remain difficult to decipher and undestand.Cities are more than buildings and people.Cities are full of dualities and contradictions. They contain both order and chaos; showcasing beauty and ugliness; housing rich and poor; promoting prosperity and poverty , never static, always evoloving and devolving and remain places of happenings. Full of people, activities, institutions and vehicles, cities are choking, short of fresh air and healthy environs,due to paucity and acute shortage of open and green spaces.Vehicular pollution is killing environs, ecology, people and cities.Occupying limited space and limited proportion of land, open spaces always remain at premium in urban context. With growing cities, green and open spaces become more relevant and valuable and attraction for inhabitants. Globally,most “liveable” /famous cities are known by the parks, open spaces, gardens, play grounds and public spaces they house. Hyde Park in London, Central Park in New York; Pinjore Garden- Kalka; Shalimar/Tulip Garden- Srinagar; Rose/Rock Garden Chandigarh; Budha Jayanti Park- Delhi are few of the examples of green spaces, which have put these cities and towns on the global map of tourism and eminence. Urban green spaces play critical role in mitigation /adaptation of majority of prevailing urban ills. Due to their inherent and distinct aesthetic characteristics and functionality, green spaces tend to serve cultural; economic and environmental purposes in urban context involving; preserving biodiversity and nature conservation; reducing stress; promoting physical activities and facilitating social contacts, besides maintaining and
  8. 8. increasing property values through cleaner, greener, and safer environment. Neighborhood devoid of adequate and appropriate open spaces negatively impact residents, promoting a sense of insecurity and increasing perceptions of crime. Due to large number and range of environmental services offered, urban green spaces can be considered vital, promoting public good and creating a direct relationship with the quality of life of urban dwellers. Urban green spaces also provide opportunities for social interactions, helping reduce social isolation, generate social capital, promoting greater personal resilience and wellbeing. Considering the role and importance of green spaces in promoting and defining human health and community well -being, public health component must be included and made integral part of urban planning and development processes and tools used for urban planning and development. In addition to making value addition to cities and communities, green and open spaces are known for their numerous intangible benefits in terms of, creating positive attitudes; making people active, happy and healthy; promoting socialisation besides promoting and preserving bio-diversity , which unfortunately remain poorly understood/appreciated and poorly evidenced. Considering enormous value they hold for ecology, environment, people and communities, urban green spaces should be seen as an essential and integral part of urban infrastructure and not an add-on, nice to have or a luxury for urban areas. Better tools and methodologies are needed for evaluating and doing a cost-benefit analysis of parks and open spaces, for understanding the services they render to the urbanites, communities, neighbourhood, environment, bio-diversity and cities. Making adequate and qualitative provision of open spaces in the urban settlements needs objective analysis and evaluation, so that benefits accruing to urban settlements due to making appropriate provision of open spaces in the urban areas on the prescribed norms and standards, should be clearly understood and appreciated, in order to make them integral and essential part of city planning, designing, development and management frame-work. Understanding the context, role and importance of urban green spaces in reshaping, redefining, reinventing, innovating and repositioning of the existing and future cities and making them healthy and happy places to live, will remain critical. Making provision of adequate open spaces, using urban planning as the potent lever and effective tool, will always remain relevant and valuable. Looking objectively, strategies for providing open spaces in urban areas must revolve around; • Promoting /conservation and making value addition to existing green space in cities. • Providing green spaces, open spaces, play grounds and public spaces on prescribed norms, as integral part of city planning and development process
  9. 9. • Creating a well-defined hierarchy of open spaces in the urban and regional context • Defining precisely norms and standards to be adopted for providing open spaces, at all levels of cities and urban planning and development. • Ensuring equitable distribution of open areas, covering all inhabitants and minimizing concentration of open spaces in the city. • Actively involving residents and communities in planning, designing, development and maintenance of open spaces by making green spaces community-led programme rather than government led agenda. • Promoting and celebrating green spaces, by organizing competitions and dedicated festivals like Rose/chrysanthemum Festival etc. besides recognizing and awarding best planned and maintained individual gardens at residential/ institutional level, on periodic basis. • Preserving, protecting and promoting all existing vegetation , flora and fauna. • Promoting sustainable landscaping by using native species/ plants for achieving economy in the development of adequate tree cover besides ensuring the survival and growth of trees and saving water and energy to the tune of 20-30%.. • Promoting Xeri-scaping to minimize consumption of precious water resource in the landscaping of green spaces. • Involving educational institutions / campuses having large area, for tree plantation and creating green/landscaped area within the institutions/campus. • Involving and making children and students active partner in greening cities, and for increasing and making addition to the inventory of green spaces in the cities. • Making environment/ ecology, integral part of education/study curricula at school and higher level of education and creating awareness about role /importance of green spaces at individual/community level to make addition and improve the availability of green spaces in the city. • Defining Hierarchy of Open Spaces; In order to ensure the availability of green spaces beyond physical barrier and making it accessible to the poorest of the poor citizens of any settlement, it will be critical to define the levels of physical planning adopted for human settlement and also the fabric of open spaces to be provided at each level of such planning. Accordingly, open spaces need to be planned in a well- defined hierarchy involving; open spaces at regional level; specialized open spaces like, zoo, botanical gardens; open spaces at city level; sub- city level; district level; neighbourhood level and open spaces at local/ housing cluster level. However, considering the large variations adopted in defining various levels
  10. 10. of planning in master plans/development plans, depending upon the size, location, structure and physiography of different cities, options of providing open spaces shall have to be at variance. However, efforts shall be required to be made to cover the entire city and all the local residents and communities, within the framework of green spaces. In order to follow the hierarchy of green spaces, it will be critical that the system of open spaces should be made integral part of the Master plans/Development plans evolved for the city, clearing defining the area to be used for open spaces, green spaces, play grounds, and public spaces. In addition, detailed policy framework and guidelines need to be defined in the Master Plans/Development plans, for creating such open spaces while working out the local area plans, on prescribed norms and standards. In fact, a section dedicated to the public open/green spaces need to be included as integral part of the Master/Development plans. Chandigarh evolved its master plan following a dedicated system of providing green belts , to link entire city with the Shivalik range of hills, located in the north. Tianjin Eco-City planned extensive green (vegetation) and blue (water) networks to provide quality living /working environment. Green network comprising of green lung at the core and eco- corridors emanating from the lung to the other parts of city are the hallmarks of Tianjin eco-city. Water bodies created in the city are interlinked and interwoven to enhance ecology and provide attractive environment and space for recreation, with a wastewater pond rehabilitated /transformed into a clean and beautiful lake, spread over an area of 2.5 sqkms. • Valuing People Perception; Urban green spaces hold different social meanings and understandings for different user groups due to variety of social interactions. Accordingly, green spaces in cities and towns are used in a variety of ways, depending upon social and physical factors involving accessibility , facilities, attractiveness, location, size and security. These determinants are known for their complexities, interconnectivity, and variance. Accordingly, it is important, vital and critical, to understand the needs of local residents and the manner, green spaces may be used. In order to enable urban development to serve and match the local needs and values besides bridging the gap between vision and ground reality, public engagement in the planning and design process would be critical for understanding the needs of the community. Greening of cities, when carried out without appropriate consultation, study and analysis, may prove to be Chandigarh Master Plan- Le Corbusier
  11. 11. counterproductive and emerge as a liability rather than an asset for the community and the city, where such spaces are provided. The manner in which people use and appreciate green spaces, assume importance for rational and logical planning and placing of green spaces. • Rationalizing Size; The availability of green spaces in urban areas, in adequate quantity and quality, remains most critical for making optimum use of such spaces. Use of green spaces is found to be positively linked with the size of green space. The size of the urban green space invariably dictates the manner in which space will be used by the community and the users. Larger sized green spaces remain more active and productive due to variety of uses to which these spaces can be put. Larger spaces may be more likely to be used for active purposes including doing physical activity, playing games, socializing, resting, doing yogas, walking, running, holding events, functions etc., while smaller spaces remain largely passive, used essentially for socializing, resting, gossiping and restitution. Minimum size of green space to be recognized as open spaces has been mandated to be 500 sqm by the URPDFI guidelines. However, size, shape and extent of the green spaces will largely depend upon/ dictated by the planning framework and planning concept/philosophy, adopted by the planner for defining the contours of the neighborhood. It will also depend upon the extent of area planned and planning norms prescribed by the competent authority. It has been observed that extent of green spaces remains positively co-related to the area of the neighborhood/township being planned. Land use pattern defined in the planning is known to be major determinants of extent of green spaces provided. • Ensuring Accessibility; Most critical component dictating the use of green spaces remains; easy, unobstructed and universal accessibility to such spaces. If green spaces do not have appropriate level of accessibility, such spaces will always remain marginalized ,facing neglect, abuse and misuse. Accessibility to site is largely dictated by the location in the context of overall planning; physical distances (of residential areas and users), from the green space and available means of approach . Frequent users of green spaces are known to be persons living in close proximity to a green space, within a distance of less than 0.5 km or 5 minutes’ walk. Crossing major roads are considered major impediment/roadblock to accessibility to such spaces. Accordingly, green spaces should be planned and placed in such a manner that accessing it does not involve any crossing over a major traffic artery/road. Availability of unobstructed pedestrian pathways and cycle tracks, connecting residential area with green spaces, remain the most preferred choice of the users in the urban areas. For promoting higher order of usability, all green spaces should be made universally accessible to all the residents including , physically challenged, senior citizens, children and women , in order to ensure that no inhabitant is deprived of the benefits of green spaces
  12. 12. created in the neighbourhood/city. In large number of cases where new townships are created, land developed for green space remains accessible only to the local residents to the exclusion of other communities and neighbourhoods. Restricting accessibility despite availability, is seen a major threat to usability and promoting inequities in accessing the available urban green spaces. In order to promote universal visibility, accessibility and usability of green spaces pan city , concept of gated communities would need review, revision and redefinition with regard to accessing green spces and public amenities, provided in the area for the outside residents.. Pattern of physically planning , typology of layout plans adopted for positioning green spaces within the planned areas remain crucial for ensuring their accessibility. Green spaces provided facing the housing blocks are found to have high order of accessibility, whereas remotely located green spaces are avoided by the residents, despite their positivities. Providing unhindered and universal accessibility, invariably remains valuable and leads to greater use of available urban green space. • Promoting Quality ; The quality of infrastructure , elements and characteristics used in the planning, designing and development of the green spaces are known to considerably impact the usability of such spaces in the urban areas. Well planned, well defined , well developed green spaces, having features which facilitate physical activities, doing physical exercises in groups, having space for yoga, meditation; space for sitting and socialising; covered shelter for protection from sun and rain; adequate arrangement of lighting and options for walking and running besides providing a perception of safety and security, remain most active and have proved to be users-friendly. Such spaces have invariably been found to have large number of users. Fencing provided with well -defined entries/exits, for securing the green spaces, are also useful in giving distinct identity to green spaces and stopping the entry of unwanted animals and trespassing into these spaces. Study made in Australia has concluded that the quality of the green space was important for de-stressing the users. Studies have also shown the positive impact of making environmental features integral part of the green spaces, to promote awareness and influence the behavioral changes of the users for making value addition to such spaces. Adding trees has its own context in the green spaces because trees are known to provide distinct advantages in not only producing oxygen, essential for human living, but also provide valuable shade and natural cooling during the hot summers besides Global- Tree Count
  13. 13. improving the aesthetics of green spaces. Difference of temperature between area under sunlight and shade has been found to be approximately 2-2.5 degree Celsius. As per studies made, every human being , on an average breathes about 9.5 tonnes of air on annual basis. Oxygen only makes up about 23 % of air by mass. For making available the oxygen needed by an individual roughly, seven / eight fully matured trees are required at the local level. In addition, a single tree, on an average, offers a cooling effect in atmosphere equivalent to about 5 air- conditioners and accordingly trees in the urban context help cities to overcome the problem of heat island, and urban warming. Trees, by lowering down the local temperature, help in reducing energy consumption and decarbonizing the cities by minimizing the consumption of energy involved in cooling buildings. Making open spaces more qualitative will remain crucial for ensuring the optimum benefits and usability of such spaces. Accordingly, it should form integral part of planning and development strategies of green spaces . • Safety and Security; Perception of adequate security, and safety are other important features regulating the use of green spaces and impacting the user’s perception and understanding of usability of such spaces. Rundown and unprotected open spaces ,having undefined ownership, may often be associated with illegal activities including gambling, homelessness as well as crime and vandalism. Such activities invariably lead to large number of users avoiding green spaces, especially women , children and elders. Physical location also considerably impact the perception of security of the users, because studies have concluded that green spaces created in remote areas, away from the residential and activity areas, are invariably avoided due to sense of insecurity attached to them. Accordingly, while positioning, planning and developing green spaces, elements of visibility must be integrated to promote sense of security and safety among users. • Social Context; In addition to the quality and characteristics of the parks, social factors also play critical role in determining the usability of parks. It has been observed that neighbourhoods lacking feelings of social cohesion has invariably led to less use of parks and open spaces due to segregation of population in different ethnic groups. in this context ethnic minorities are seen to be major losers. Prevailing socio-cultural fabric of the neighborhoods may lead to less use of green spaces by ethnic minorities. Adequate care has to be taken for protecting existing residents against adverse consequences caused by higher property values, while launching initiatives to create green space in deprived neighborhoods to make them healthier and more attractive, which may lead to displacement of the local residents, for whose benefit, the initiatives are designed and launched. • Location; Location of green spaces remains one of the most critical factors in determining the usability of green spaces. Studies made has revealed that green
  14. 14. spaces, provided in a distant corner of neighbourhood, have invariably been found to have less acceptability by the community and are generally avoided by the users. These spaces invariably face neglect and large scale misuse, abuse and encroachments. Green spaces provided within a cluster, enclosed by the houses, are the one which remain most preferred destination for the users. In addition to being used for majority of the time, such spaces are known to be most safe and secure, well-kept and are subjected to least encroachment, misuse and illegal activities. Green spaces provided at the back of houses are invariably treated like backyards by such houses and are seen more as a dumping ground rather than an area for recreation and physical activity. In addition, illegal entries are found to be created by such houses, to get easy access to the green spaces. Tendency of encroaching green spaces and treating green spaces as extension of the individual houses are also observed in majority of such cases. Green spaces provided on the side of the houses are invariably treated as an extension of the corner house and is enclosed and protected as private green space. Considering these facts, it will be vital to consider the location of the green spaces during the planning of the residential neighbourhoods. Planners must have intimate knowledge of positioning of such spaces so that they are not encroached, misused and abused. Studies need to be undertaken with regard to optimum size and location of green spaces to be provided at various levels in order to promote their optimum use. Visibility of such spaces should remain the most critical and vital factor and guiding principal for locating green spaces in the neighbourhood. In addition, distribution of open spaces based on equity should also be built into the process of planning. Green spaces should not remain concentrated in few residential pockets and should be divided into different areas so as to cover entire population. High density housing cluster should have larger proportion of open spaces, whereas larger sized plots, having low density, should have lesser proportion of such spaces, due to large availability of open spces within the individual house. Basis of distribution of green spaces should be the density, number of households and population housed in the area and not the area occupied by the number of houses. Local level authorities must ensure that quality parks and green spaces are located in close proximity to people, regardless of where they live. • Usability; Detailed studies made has revealed that green spaces are not being used by same category of people during the day. The age group of users has been found to be at variance during different hours of the day. Variations of age groups using green spaces have also been observed during different seasons of the year. During morning and evening, most of the users belong to the age group which are employed during the day or running their own business. These users include both men and women and members of such families. Few of them also use these spaces in the evening. Housewives are seen to be major users in the late hour
  15. 15. of the morning and the evening. Children preferably use these spaces in the morning and evening ,where facilities for playing games are available. Providing swings, rides and other children-focused games, have been found to increase the usability of green spaces by attracting more children in the parks. Further, creating open gyms, have found favour with large number of users , which value the role and importance of exercises to remain healthy. Provision of these infrastructures have increased the intensity and duration of utilization of the green spaces. Senior citizens/retirees favour morning and afternoon times for relaxing or socializing. Mornings are preferred times for activities like running, walking, doing yoga and physical exercises whereas evenings are generally dedicated to passive activities of relaxing, sitting and socializing. During winter, most preferred time remains during the availability of sun in the day and during summers, morning and evenings are the preferred time for using green spaces. Providing options for the shaded spaces also help promote the use of green spaces during the summers and rainy times. Accordingly, keeping in view the user’s fabric, choices, preferences and age groups, green spaces need to be, rationally and innovatively, planned ,designed and developed, for ensuring their optimum utilization. • Land; Non-availability of adequate land, at appropriate places in appropriate quantity and at appropriate price, remains the biggest roadblock in creating qualitative and making available appropriate level of open spaces in the urban areas. Green spaces in urban areas, remain under threat in an environment ,where such spaces are limited and there exists relative shortage of housing and land for development. Cost of land and lack of understanding on the part of the users and city authorities, remains the major roadblock in providing such spaces in urban areas. In order to define and identify areas for creating green spaces, land suitability analysis of the area to be planned, must be carried out in detail. Identifying the area which needs to be conserved/preserved; areas unfit for human habitation; areas subjected to legal infirmities for urban development and areas fit/ripe for urban development ,will remain valuable for optimizing the available land and for evolving rational plans. Areas identified as unsuitable and subjected to legal infirmities for urban development including areas available along the major highways and around water bodies should be earmarked and used for planning and development of green spaces. Earmarking, sourcing, planning and developing all existing and available low-lying areas/areas should be effectively developed and used as open spaces/parks/recreation. . Entire stretches of land, coming under High-Tension Electrical lines and land earmarked as, ‘no-construction zone’, due to statutory provisions, need to be used exclusively for developing green belts in the city. Areas identified to be preserved and protected should also be supplemented with creating green spaces.
  16. 16. Preparing inventory of available open spaces for safeguarding such spaces from being encroached, misused and abused would always remain important. All water bodies should be supported with green spaces to make value addition and protected from all possible human interventions and encroachments. Similar options must be exercised in promoting and preserving areas around/within heritage, existing in the city. Making optimum use of large areas available along the transportation network for plantation, greening and creating network of green spaces ,will help in creating large pool of such spaces in the city. Removing all existing encroachments, on designated open/greenspaces and developing such areas as green areas, and greening large vacant/unbuilt area available with the existing local level institutions will help in making large additions to such spaces. Promoting City forests (developing high intensity/density green cover in cities) on large scale, will not only add green spaces but will also bring back lost flora, fauna and bio-diversity into the city. Bringing all parking areas under the aegis of tree plantation can go a long way in creating large green cover in the cities. Potential of green roofs and green walls also needs to be explored for making addition to vocabulary of green spaces by converting large unused and abused spaces in the city. Traffic island, traffic rotaries, underpasses, over-bridges and fly-overs, created in the urban areas to rationalize and regulate flow of traffic, offer valuable space/ opportunities to make addition to green spaces in the cities. Chandigarh Municipal Corporation, has exploited the potential of such spces to create large volume of beautiful open spaces without incurring any cost. Looking objectively, cities contain/offer lot of opportunities, which remain untapped, unexplored, for sourcing land for making additions to green spaces. • Financing; Urban green spaces remain resource and cost-intensive not only in sourcing land but also planning, designing and developing them. Looking at the lie-cycle cost of the green spaces, it has been concluded that green spaces involve lot of resources for maintaining them, in terms of manpower, equipment, water charges, cost of periodic additions and alterations etc., , which makes their maintenance highly cost-intensive. Limited availability of financial resources with urban local bodies coupled with low priority accorded to the green spaces, finding adequate resources for greening cities always remain a distant dream. In the Chandigarh Traffic Rotaries
  17. 17. absence of a robust scientific basis of the health benefits, it becomes all the more difficult to make a strong case for allocating scarce public resources for urban green spaces. Resource constraints and reductions in public spending invariably disproportionately impact the urban green space, since they have to compete with other public services that have higher priority. Due to limited availability of funds, most of the urban areas remain deficient in the availability of green spaces. It is said , as against the prescribed norms of 9 sqm, Indian cities have availability of only 2.7sqm of green space ,on per capita basis. In order to bridge this gap, large allocation of resources will be essential. However, there exists numerous options for raising resources for providing and maintaining urban green spaces. Best option to maintain and develop the green spaces will be to make local residents’ active partner by involving them in the planning, developing and maintaining green spaces falling within their complexes. Resident Welfare Association and Co- operative societies need to be roped in for this purpose. Many urban local bodies, plan and develop the green spaces and then hand over to the Resident Welfare Associations for maintenance and upkeep by paying them charges based on the pre-defined area based norms. This helps in reducing the maintenance cost of green spaces. Involving corporate sectors in planning , developing and maintenance of green spaces, can help local authorities in meeting the entire cost of such spaces by merely giving them the advertisement rights to showcase and display their industries in the green spaces. In addition, levying Internal Development Charges(IDC) and External Development Charges( EDC), which include charges for landscaping of the licensed area, provide adequate resources for not only developing green areas within the sanctioned township, but also making available resources for city level landscaping and developing green spaces/belts/playgrounds, on the proportionate basis. It has been observed that planned development remains the best option for sourcing land and making available adequate financial resources for the development of green spaces in the cities. Accordingly, for developing appropriate level of green spaces, cities must opt for and promote planned development. In addition, to using land as the resource for developing green spaces, Government of India has also launched a scheme for greening and making value addition to the cities and towns. Atal Mission of Rejuvenation of Urban Transformation (AMRUT), includes green spaces as a major and important component of cities. Sources made available under the Mission can be made use of for planning and development of green spaces in the city. In addition, all the urban local bodies, development authorities, Housing Boards, Improvement Trusts, Industrial Development Authorities etc., engaged in real estate development should be asked to earmark dedicated funds
  18. 18. for the development of green spaces and landscaping the city, where they are operating. Singapore Experiment with Green Spaces -Vertical Gardens For overcoming the limitations of availability of adequate land, imposed by being an island country, Singapore is experimenting with number of options to increase the green footprints in the city. One of the innovative options used, is to create vertical gardens in area reclaimed from the sea, known as, ‘Garden By the Bay’. Spread over an area of 250 acres, the Garden is ,a nature park located in the Central Region of Singapore, adjacent to the Marina Reservoir. Garden has been developed as the part of the nation's plans to transform Singapore from a "Garden City" to a "City in a Garden", with the sole aim of raising the quality of life by enhancing greenery and flora in the city. Gardens is intended to be Singapore's premier urban outdoor recreation space and a national icon, containing number of green options including conservatories; flower dome; cloud forest; children garden; horticulture themed gardens; bayfront plaza and floral fantasy. In addition to creating green spaces at the ground level and various other elements; garden includes number of Super Trees created in the garden. Super trees, are high-tech tree like structures, ranging in height from 80-160 feet, with trunks acting as vertical gardens laced with more than 1,50,000 living plants and having provision of sourcing solar energy, for a night show organized in the garden besides shading and working as environmental engines for the gardens.Super trees are home to number of exotic ferns, vines, orchids, having vast collection of other plants. Trees are fitted with environmental technologies that mimic the ecological function of trees: photovoltaic cells that harness solar energy, used for lighting, similar to how trees photosynthesize the solar energy, and collection of rainwater for use in irrigation and fountain displays, similar to how trees absorb rainwater for growth. The Super trees also showcase air intake and exhaust functions as part of the conservatories' cooling systems. Garden serve dual purpose for the city, involving leisure, entertainment and de-stressing residents, visitors, tourists besides providing the benefit of large number of trees/green spaces for decarbonizing and promoting green spaces in the city. In addition, Singapore has also modified its building regulations, providing for compensating the entire quantum of green space, occupied by the built environment within the building designed, in the shape of terrace gardens/ roof gardens. This provision has helped the city in minimizing the impact Singapore-- Super trees in 250 -acre Gardens by Bay. -- High-tech structures range from 80 to 160 feet -- collect solar energy to power a night light show. -- trunks are vertical gardens, laced with more than 150,000 living plants .
  19. 19. of buildings on the reduction of green spaces. In addition, it has also made value addition to the buildings in reducing their carbon footprints and providing all the benefits of green roof besides creating captive open spaces for the residents of group housing which could be used on 24x7 basis. Green Roofs Considering the role and importance, green roofs and green walls are fast emerging as an option to create large volume of green spaces in an otherwise dense and congested localities. Gardens planted on rooftops ,maximise limited green spaces and curtail greenhouse gas emissions. Green roofs are being known and valued, as alternate open spaces, created within the individual residence for captive and community use, offering numerous physical, social, economic and environmental benefits, not only to the built environment, people and communities but also to the city, climate and human livability. These benefits include; creating new frontier of humane and sustainable urban planning; decreasing stormwater runoff ; reducing air pollution; Increasing oxygen production; improving air- quality; purifying air; encouraging biodiversity, minimizing greenhouse gas emissions, removing air particulates; reducing carbon-footprints ; improving property value and marketability; promoting economy, generating employment; promoting community gardening projects, adding up greenery, creating visually pleasing green elements; improving aesthetics in building and neighborhood; impacting living, working and promoting well-being of people through green environment; promoting relaxation and reducing stress; making people happy, heathy and more productive; promoting optimum utilization of unused space; making addition of a new amenity space within building; reducing and slowing stormwater runoff and avoid flooding in the urban environment. Green roofs in neighborhoods, not only increase city’s attractiveness but also promote better quality of life and create healthier/ sustainable spaces. Green roofs also act as CO2 sink with each 100 sqm of green roof; reducing greenhouse gases @ 1.8 tons per year; producing oxygen needed by 100 people in a year; removing pollution emitted by 15 cars in a year; reducing ambient temperature of cities by 1°C; minimising urban heat island /harmful city smog; preventing evolution of harmful ozone layer; retaining 40% of rainwater ;delaying water discharge by 18 minutes during intense rain and preventing collapse of urban drainage systems. Conclusion
  20. 20. World is passing through an era of unsatiated consumerism, led by industrialization, urbanization, liberalization and globalization, adversely impacting human health- both physical and mental. Bringing out ground realities and status of prevailing poor human health, WHO states that globally, large proportion of urban population is suffering from variety of problems including mental ill-health, obesity, social isolation, health inequalities, stresses and strains besides environmental degradation. Report calls upon nations and communities to find appropriate and equitable solutions to address these health and environment related problems on priority and urgent basis. Based on the detailed and systematic review of the published evidence on green-space interventions; ranging from smaller green spaces to larger interlinked spaces, WHO report has concluded that, green spaces have been found to play critical, vital and key role in addressing issues related to human health and environment. In addition, open spaces help reduce illness, obesity and stress with positive outcomes, ensuring health, social and environmental benefits on sustained basis, for entire range of urban population including population comprising lowest rung of socio-economic pyramid. Report also states that, providing adequate, quantitative and qualitative, open spaces within our urban areas assumes importance. In addition, preserving, enhancing and promoting existing green spaces will remain vital to augment and increase the availability of such spaces. Looking at their genesis and operation, green-spaces have been found to yield maximum dividends only when physical and social contexts are appropriately integrated and dovetailed at the local level. This places priority on the need of involving communities and users in the siting, planning and designing of green spaces. Sufficient time and resources accordingly need to be devoted during planning and designing such spaces, by engaging with both users and beneficiaries. Fostering multidisciplinary approach, based on collaboration with all the stakeholders, would be critical for creating successful green spaces. Adopting a bottom-up approach and emphasizing community engagement have invariably led to positive outcomes. Having public engagement embedded from the start, invariably ensures that local community’s needs were well understood and appreciated. The design options evolved must respond to the identified needs of community and stakeholders. Juxtaposing local understanding and good practices ,can help in evolving evidence-based design that would cater to all local contexts. Such an approach of working at local level has helped in creating local ownership of green spaces. While siting the open spaces it must be ensured that parks and green spaces are located based on equity and in close proximity to the community, with priority going to neighborhoods/communities found deficient in green spaces. Planning for proper maintenance and regular improvements of green spaces and parks should invariably form integral part of planning and development process. It must be understood and appreciated that urban green-space interventions always remain long-term investments and accordingly, need to be integrated with long term development strategies and
  21. 21. planning frameworks, including Master plans/ Development plans, transport policies, sustainability and biodiversity strategies. For ensuring adequate provision of green spaces on sustained basis and on prescribed norms and standards, prevailing development control regulations building bye-laws, zoning regulations must be appropriately, reviewed, revised and redefined to include appropriate provisions for green spaces, green streets, sidewalk planters, or other greening strategies. For having appropriate level of green spaces, these spaces should be included and made integral part of the urban infrastructure and should be adequately reflected in the Infrastructure plans evolved at the local level. Urban spaces should be made integral part of all policies and plans evolved for creating healthy environment, including green spaces and public spaces for promoting leisure and recreation. Looking at the multiplicity of usages, multiplicity of purposes served and large number of benefits accruing, it becomes critical that cities would need to be made more clean, green and eco-friendly by providing quality green spaces. Providing quality green spaces at prescribed norms, as an integral part of urban infrastructure and long term planning, development , management process, can help and ensure making cities; more livable, sustainable, safe, inclusive, resilient, happy and healthy places to live in and work with. Bibliography; • Lee ACK; Jordan HC Jordan, Horsley J ; Value of urban green spaces in promoting healthy living and wellbeing: prospects for planning; • Slater JS, Richard MS; Christiana; Jeanette G; US Public Health Response to COVID-19 and Chronic Disease special supplement, and Mental Health - a Global Public Health Issue • Gupta JK; Building Carbon Neutral Cities Through Green Roofs; unpublished paper; September 2021 • Wikipedia; Garden By the Bay; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gardens_by_the_Bay • McCarthy J, Sánchez E; 6WaysGreenRoofsProtectCitiesFromClimateChange-- From fighting heat waves to stopping floods • Davis C; 4 Reasons Green Roofs Do A Building Good; July 13, 2015 • Rosenzweig, et.; Green Roofs in the New York Metropolitan Region, Research Report," • Note; All images are sourced through Google, which are gratefully and sincerely acknowledged and appreciated with gratitude. Images are not being used for any commercial purpose but used for academic/research purposes and for illustration to make the text clear.
  22. 22. • Author;--- • Ar Jit Kumar Gupta #344/40-a, Chandigarh-160036 Former, Director, College of Architecture IET Bhaddal (Pb) mail-jit.kumar1944@gmail.com

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