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Urban Green Spaces Prospects and Retrospect’s

Written By

Akanksha Sangwan, Anjali Saraswat, Nand Kumar, Satish Pipralia and Ashwani Kumar

Submitted: January 17th, 2022 Reviewed: January 25th, 2022 Published: March 1st, 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.102857

IntechOpen
Urban Green Spaces Edited by Rui Alexandre Castanho

From the Edited Volume

Urban Green Spaces [Working Title]

Dr. Rui Alexandre Castanho and Prof. José Cabezas Fernández

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Abstract

Urban green spaces (UGSs) are integral structural elements of the city’s existence and are promoted to serve diverse functions such as recreation, ecological services, regulation of ambient air temperature and hydrological regime pollution abatement, social inclusion, enhancing amenity value, etc., in sum, they help minimize the adverse impacts of urbanization on the environment and improve citizens’ habitable experiences. However, due to competing economic interests and demand on land for various purposes such as residential, commercial, industrial and institutional, UGS in cities take a back seat and are seldom given desired attention, and Indian cities are no exception. The challenges faced by UGS are many and include Land availability, quantity, quality, distribution, accessibility, lack of intended purpose and stakeholder participation. Therefore, it is imperative to explore strategies for planning UGS to ensure their adequate provision and maintenance in cities. Unlike Western countries cities in India have diverse classification and hierarchy of green spaces, therefore, this text examines typology of green spaces, their provisions, associated benefits, emergent concerns in the Indian context through case studies and concludes with plausible strategies for inclusion in urban planning framework.

Keywords

  • urban green spaces
  • open and green space
  • urban planning
  • urban green

1. Introduction

“Greenspace” the word itself is so vast for the academicians that it has been used by researchers differently in different contexts. With the revolutions in the research of sustainability, the term “green” not only symbolizes trees and vegetation but is also used as an adjective for environment-friendly built environments and even technologies. In urban planning, the term “greenspace” is referred to as the vegetation cover of the spatial area. Greenspace is an urban space that fulfills various esthetics, air purification, conservation of ecology, etc. Urban green spaces (UGSs) in cities exist as natural or semi-natural, managed parks and gardens, supplemented by scattered vegetation pockets associated with roads and random green spaces [1].

Some traditional and cultural parameters, including health, ecological, social, and recreational, remain a major deterministic factor for the optimum usability of these spaces. These UGS can be accessible or inaccessible within city areas. Accessibility of green spaces is an important aspect to assess its impact. There are many UGS within the city area which are inaccessible to the public, and thus citizens are not able to avail themselves of its best benefits. In such cases, green space may not perform its function. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the context of green spaces in urban planning. To further elaborate the green space, ‘public open spaces’ is another term that can further help understand the concept, functionality, and psychological impact of the population affected by green spaces. UGS include natural elements like green belts, soil, water, parks, etc. have a positive effect on human wellbeing, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

UGS in Chandigarh city, India (Chandigarh is the first the planned city of India by architect-planner Le Corbusier and is famous for its green spaces integration in the master plan). (Source: author).

The sustenance of human life on Earth is entirely due to a natural environment and large biodiversity functions. Fresh air, water, fruits, woodlands and minerals are all provisioned by various ecosystem services. Green spaces in cities serve as a natural gathering place for the community, fostering social interaction and integration. They also promote individuality and belongingness to urban areas. The effectiveness of UGS to attenuate air pollution is enhanced by vegetation density. Urban greenery provides a safe and healthy atmosphere for walking, jogging, and running and a conducive environment for social contact and physical and leisure activities. Consuming the maximum benefits of city greens requires them to remain unaltered by the urban infrastructure such as the buildings, highways, and other infrastructural components. The current times require greens to be planned as ecological functional spaces coexisting to support the human functions of recreation, esthetics, leisure activities and conserving environmental values.

Vacant built-up space remains as elapsed wasteland or gaps between buildings and other constructions. These spaces have a high potential for reconstruction and repurposing by integrating them into the public, and for creating stunning spaces by distinguishing their specific character. For example, the exact characteristic of a former railway track is that it connects two regions and can be renovated into a green corridor. Depending on their location, abandoned areas can be converted into different facilities. Every city has such vacant spaces that are waiting to be adapted to the current urban fabric so that they can be part of the total cityscape.

An environmental justice issue that affects so many communities is the lack of green space. Most cities have green areas throughout them for the health of the citizens. In areas that are predominantly lower income or a minority group tend to have less green space. Green spaces are very important to maintain good air quality and promote exercise [2]. There are many cases of this environmental justice problem that were acknowledged and even fixed. A few examples are Tartu, Estonia, Faro, Portugal, and Phoenix, Arizona. Green space is something everyone should have equal access to, but due to the environmental justice problem certain groups are deprived of easily accessible green space.

Living near a green space might even help you live longer. A scientific review published in The Lancet Planetary Health found urbanites living near a park or a garden had a lower risk of premature passing. In their work, the researchers used a vegetation index to measure the density of greenery in locales. Using their scale, infertile areas composed of rocks or sand would score closer to a zero, while an area like a lush tropical rainforest would score closer to one.

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2. Methodology

The chapter holistically covers and generalizes concepts and concerns associated with UGS across urban planning domain. The chapter is written based on the review and analysis of secondary data available in the form of published literature from reputed data sources, government reports and based personal observation of the author may during the course of study.

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3. Benefits of urban green spaces

The green space can be differentiated from open space as it constitutes only a two-dimensional land area that has not been modified to buildings, highways, and other infrastructural components. Greens should be mainly classified into an ecological function space (flora and fauna, physical infrastructure (drainage, stormwater management, and water quality conservation), and human function (provision for recreational, aesthetical, emotional, and leisure activities, preservation of environmental values, and solar access). Green space may consist of a vast range of pre-hold and leasehold land tenure with different use and access rights. Green space may also find its share in further land-use planning.

In the early 1700s, garden squares and parks were firstly introduced in urban areas. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the parkway movement, headed by Frederick Law Olmsted, led to the belief that green space was an important cultural and social element of the urban form. The idea of integrating green space into the urban development process came out with the regeneration of the environmental movement in the 1960s [3]. Although public access is defined for various green spaces, green space does not imply public accessibility automatically. Here the green space categories the open spaces which support human socio-cultural and health requirements, biodiversity preservation as well as discussion related to historical green space perspective [4, 5].

There are different types of green spaces like food production areas, national parks, grasslands, green belts, and playfield (like a golf course) that are predominately utilized for corps and live stocks, habitation to animals and medicinal herbs, cattle grazing, the barrier between the pavement and human settlement, and sports activity respectively. Green space categories intermingled with the next one, parks and gardens, where the needs of individuality for recreation and enjoyment are fulfilled [6, 7]. Table 1 shows the Indian UGS typology according to the designated documents with different contexts, categories, classification, and other hierarchies.

3.1 Categorization of green spaces according to the cities

Many cities in India have a categorization of spaces that are derived from literature (Table 2). And then, there is a hierarchy of classification of categorized spaces. The planned cities have systematic cataloging of green spaces like the recreational spaces, green areas and tourist areas. Each town has its USP (unique selling point), and it offers the spaces it has according to its function. Table 3 showcases the different cities of India and how they have their green spaces categorized, their further classification and the hierarchy.

DocumentsContextCategoryClassificationHierarchy
UDPFI (1996)Open spacesRecreational facilitiesParks and open spaces
Sports centers and playgrounds
Botanical and zoological parks
Water bodies/other natural features
Places of tourist interest
Housing cluster
Sector
Community
District
Sub-city center
URDPFI (2014)Open spacesRecreational space
Organized green
Other common spaces (such as vacant lands/open spaces including flood plains, forest cover etc. In plain areas)
RecreationalRecreational
P-1 Playgrounds/stadium/sports complex
P-2 parks and gardens—public open spaces
P-3 multi-open space (Maidan)
Organized green
Housing cluster
Neighborhood
Community
District/zone
Sub-city center
Urban Green Guideline (2014)Green spacesUrban greensReserved forest
Protected forest
District park
Neighborhood park
Tot-lots
Playgrounds
Green belts (buffer)
Green strip
Tot lot
Playground
Neighborhood park
Community park

Table 1.

Indian UGS typology.

TypologyInternational typologyIndian typology
Amenity green spaceRecreational green space
Parks and gardens
Outdoor sports areas
Green street space
Private green space
Green roofs
Courtyard
Greenery at housing estates
Greenery at commercial buildings
Reserved forests
Protected forests
National parks
Sanctuary
Functional green spaceGreen trail
Car parking space
Pedestrian area
Stormwater retention area
Old landfills/dumps
Productive green space
Remnant farmland
City farms
Cemeteries/churchyards
City parks
District parks
Neighborhood parks
Tot lots
Linear green space and open spacesRiver and canal banks
Transport corridors—road/rails
Green belts (buffers)
Green strips
Transport corridors
Natural and semi-natural spacesWetlands
Woodlands
Vacant land
Post-industrial land
Playgrounds
Green corridorsTree belts
Canal and riverbanks
Disused railways
Allotments, community gardens, and urban farmsAllotments
Community gardens
City farms
Outdoor sports facilitiesSchool playing fields
Community playing fields
Provision for children and young peopleFacilities for young people
Community parks
Children’s play area
Privately usable areasFacade greening
Roof garden
Front garden
Courtyard
Balcony
Leisure areasCampsite
Multifunctional leisure facility
Sports ground
Eco-sensitive areasWaterlogged
Marshy
Swampy

Table 2.

Categorization of green spaces according to the typology.

City nameCategorization of spacesClassification of categorized spacesHierarchy of classification of categorized spaces
JaipurRecreational space/tourism zoneG1 eco sensitive areas
G2 green zones
G3 parks
Parks
Gardens
Stadium
Sports ground
JodhpurRecreational spaceParks and open spaces
Stadium and play grounds
Fair and tourism
Public entertainment
No further classification
SriganganagarRecreational spaceParks, open spaces and playground stadiumNo further classification
ChandigarhRecreational space/green areasSports facilities
Cremation ground
Cultural facilities
Organized open space
Forest
Agriculture
Naya RaipurRecreational spaceOpen spacesFilm city
Parks and play areas
Stadium and sports complex
Nature resort/theme park
Reserved forest
Botanical park, jungle safari
LucknowRecreational space/green areasParks and open spacesNo classification
PuneRecreational spaceCommunity hall
Museum/theaters
Parks and open spaces
No classification
VaranasiRecreational spaceGardens, open spaces and urban forestNo classification
PanajiRecreational spaceCity level parks and playgroundsHousing area park
Neighborhood park
Community park
District park
PudducherryRecreational space/tourism zoneOpen spaceParks
Gardens
Stadium

Table 3.

Categorization of green spaces according to the typology.

Figure 2 shows an overall view of UGS and countries’ happiness worldwide. This map highlights regional differences in the green space distribution due to climate; countries near the Equator in tropical climates have relatively high UGSs, while countries in the 20–30 latitude range have exceptionally low UGSs due to the dry climate. The UGS increases with latitude in higher-latitude regions. On the other hand, Northern and Western European and North American countries display relatively high happiness scores. Western Asian countries also show relatively high happiness with a low UGS, indicating that the relationship between happiness and green space is not trivial.

Figure 2.

UGS and happiness index of countries worldwide (a) The map of urban green space and happiness in 60 developed countries. The size and color of circles represent the level of happiness and urban green space in a country, respectively. The markers are placed on the most populated cities of each country. (b) Histogram of happiness (c) Histogram of UGS (d) Histogram of log-GDP.

The distribution of UGS and happiness over the world. (a) The map of UGS and happiness in 60 developed countries. The size and color of circles represent the level of happiness and UGS in a country, respectively. The markers are placed on the most populated cities of each country. (b)–(d) The histograms of (b) happiness, (c) UGS and (d) logarithmic GDP per capita (log-GDP). We use the logarithm of the total NDVI per capita as an indicator of UGS and the logarithm of GDP per capita as a measure of wealth.

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4. The uses of green spaces (according to the place)

The usage of Greenspace for recreation and leisure purposes led to the identification of its economic, cultural, environmental, and social values, which further increased the attention on its management and planning. In this chapter, the focus is on the relationship of Greenspace to human interaction on various levels of livability, recreational purposes and improved quality of life. The other perspective describes urban vegetation, such as parks, yards, and gardens related to a green stuff kind of open space. This perspective may be defined as a subsidiary of a comprehensive notion of Greenspace, i.e., limited to the built-up environment subsection of open space.

UGS are critical for making our cities sustainable and energy-efficient [8]. However, for UGS to contribute to the optimum, they have to be planned, designed, developed and managed/maintained appropriately so that they are accessible both in terms of area and population coverage. It is a fact that urbanization in India will continue unabated. The Urban Greenspaces generate diverse ecosystems of substantial significance for human wellbeing and human activities, shaping their dynamics. Many green spaces in cities disconnected from the wider environment tend to lose biodiversity due to continuous construction activities. Hence, protecting green spaces in isolation will often fail to sustain the capacity of urban ecosystems to generate value and have to be well integrated into the overall city landscape.

Figure 3 shows the distribution, parts and sub-parts of the UGS.

Figure 3.

Synonymous nature of UGS.

Furthermore, the socio-cultural, functional, health-related aspects are labeled for a specific place, i.e., “Greenspace”, as a park or recreational area [9]. Sprawling population, commerce, industries, transportation accelerated the gross domestic production, varied product availability to the consumers, and more excellent connectivity. With the high-rise demand of time, the researchers explored the correlation between these sectors and related aspects of “Greenspace”.

4.1 Regional green space use

TypologyDefinition
Natural landUnoccupied/unused lands, left unturned by the authorities or the locals, come under this category. Grasslands are also a big part of the natural land group.
Green beltsGreen belts of buffers include green girdle, park belt, rural belt, agricultural belt, country belt etc., which generally refers to a stretch between towns or regions separating one from the other. These areas are dominantly farmlands as they support agriculture and related functions. Green belts are established to keep in check the growth of the built-up regions, preserve neighboring towns from merging and also maintain a unique character of a town.
National parksNational park is an area that is protected and conserved due to the presence of remarkable natural flora, fauna, geological formations and natural scenic spots.
Reserved forestsArea duly notified under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 or the State Forest Acts having complete protection. All activities inside are prohibited unless expressly permitted.
Protected forestsThey are found in urban and peri-urban areas secured by fencing or constructing a compound wall, or both. Here no construction activity is allowed.
District parksIt is a designated term per the hierarchy of green spaces in an urban city. It is a prominent use of a vast green area and developed as a crucial green space in a city. As per UDPFI guidelines, one district park serves 500,000 of the population in plain areas.

4.2 Urban green space use

TypologyDefinition
Campsite leisureLand that is dedicated to camping acquires a significant part of the green space category, especially in the trekking zones of any country
Wetlands/marshy landA wetland is a part of the ecosystem flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands are considered amongst the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal species.
Functional green spaceSpaces like cemeteries, pedestrian area, landfills, farms, etc., are functional green spaces. These areas acquire land which is usable for the users.
Playing fieldsAs part of any institution/university/school, fields serve as a decent open area for any city. It enables the users to use it for any leisure/formal purposes.

4.3 Neighborhood green space use

TypologyDefinition
Linear green spaceAreas like pedestrians, river canals, street trees are included in Linear Green Space. It adds to the esthetic and usability value of any city.
Green stripeA green strip is developed on vacant land, for instance, land under high tension power supply lines. It is also developed along the arterial roads, separating residential areas from other land uses.
Green roof/facadeGreen roofs are the most popularly deployed form of roofs; they are generally lightweight and low cost. They are purposely fitted or cultivated with vegetation. They are also be known as living roofs, eco-roofs or vegetated roofs. They can reduce both heating and cooling loads in buildings. This has positive implications in terms of their energy consumption. The green roofs and facades increase the esthetic value of the scape.
Neighborhoods parksIt is developed at the neighborhoods level for a population of 10,000. Neighborhoods Parks are conveniently located within the developed residential areas, preferably within walking distance. It is planned on a site of 2000−4000 m2

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5. Case studies

Indian cityTypology
Chandigarh: The capital city has a forest and tree cover of 35.5% in its 114-km2 area. Chandigarh has become the greenest city in the country. The tree cover saved the city from becoming an all-concrete jungle, a fate that has overcome many Indian towns.The green belts of Chandigarh also facilitate a healthy population of diverse birds. The parks along the spine of Chandigarh include Rajendra Park, Bougainvillea Garden, Leisure Valley Garden, Zakir Rose Garden, Shanti Kunj, Bamboo Valley Garden, Bulbous Hibiscus Garden, Fragrance Garden and Dahlia Garden.

See Figure 4.

Indian cityTypology
Delhi: The capital of India is one of the greenest capitals in the world due to the consistent emphasis on greening and strict monitoring of tree cutting.Recently, the parks and garden society has been set up to coordinate the greening activities in Delhi. The city has some well-maintained parks and gardens like Lodhi Gardens, Mughal Gardens, Deer Park, Budha Jayanti Smarak Park, Indraprastha Millennium Park and The Garden of Five Senses besides the Ridge.

Figure 4.

Plan of Chandigarh.

See Figure 5.

City abroadTypology
New York – Central Park: Central Park is an urban park in New York City located between Manhattan’s Upper West and Upper East Sides. It is the fifth-largest park in the city, covering 843 acres (341 ha). It is the most visited urban Park in the United States, with an estimated 42 million visitors annually as of 2016, and is the most filmed location in the world.The Park has natural-looking plantings and landforms, having been almost entirely landscaped when built in the 1850s and 1860s. It has eight lakes and ponds created artificially by damming natural seeps and flows. Several wooded sections, lawns, meadows, and minor grassy areas. There are 21 children’s playgrounds and 6.1 miles (9.8 km) of drives.

Figure 5.

Plan of Delhi.

See Figure 6.

City abroadTypology
London – Hyde Park: Hyde Park is famous for being the largest Park in Central Park and the royal parks of London and its speaker’s corners.Hyde Park is a Grade I-listed major park in Central London. It is the largest of four Royal Parks that form a chain from the entrance of Kensington Palace through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, via Hyde Park Corner and Green Park, past the main entrance to Buckingham Palace. The Park is divided by the Serpentine and the Long Water lakes.

Figure 6.

Plan of New York Central Park.

See Figure 7.

Figure 7.

Plan of London Hyde Park.

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6. Benefits of the green spaces

Different direct accessibility Greenspace typologies provide ecological benefits such as ambient temperature, air and noise pollution reduction, water harvesting, and a barrier between pavement and locality. Green Space provides indirect health benefits instead of direct benefits. These green spaces offer various herbs, vegetables, cereals, fruits, etc., supporting human health. Flourished greenspaces promote tourism, health wellness product vending and fetch high real sale values for the properties near parks and greenways. Apart from these direct benefits, many researchers have established many indirect benefits of Greenspace, which will be discussed later in this chapter.

6.1 Social benefits

Recreation opportunities, Areas that are culturally and historically valuable. It has an impact on physical and mental health. Green spaces provide a refreshing contrast to the harsh shape, color, and texture of buildings and stimulate the senses with their simple color, sound and smell. Particular types of green space may offer a bigger diversity of land uses and opportunities for a wide range of activities, help to foster active lifestyles, and can be of real benefit to health.

6.2 Esthetic/architectural benefits

Green Spaces add to the Landscape features of any cityscape; screened views are formed from different angles of the city. Growing trees and experiencing nature is a path to a positive passive lifestyle.

6.3 Climatic and physical benefits

Air pollution reduction, Sound Control, Glare and Reflection reduction. Impacts on urban climate through temperature and humidity control. Urban forests act as temperature buffers providing shade in the summer and windbreaks in the winter in addition to reducing noise pollution and CO2 levels and providing a habitat for wildlife [10]. Urban greening improves air, water, and land resources by absorbing air pollutants, increasing water catchment in floodplain surfaces, and stabilizing soils.

6.4 Ecological benefits

Biotopes for flora and fauna in any urban environment is benefitted and, in turn, help the environment. Trees absorb pollutants; moderate the impact of humans, absorbing pollutants and releasing oxygen. They contribute to maintaining a healthy urban environment by providing clean air, water and soil. Green vegetation has been shown to lower wall surface temperatures by 17°C, which led to a reduced air conditioning load by an average of 50%. They improve the urban microclimate and maintain the balance of the city’s natural urban environment [11]. They preserve the local natural and cultural heritage by providing habitats for various wildlife and conserving a diversity of urban resources.

6.5 Economic benefits

Tourism is increased due to the aesthetical change in any scape. The property value is increased—the value of market-prices benefits [12]. Property owners value urban greenery by the premium they pay to live in the neighborhood of UGS and public parks. Plots and flats adjoining Park add to the value. In densely populated areas, this effect is even more noticeable. For example, the view of green spaces and proximity to water bodies increases the real estate prices. The impact of neighborhood parks on the transaction price of multi-storied residential units in cities illustrates that neighborhood parks could increase the cost.

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7. Value added from green space

7.1 Social value

Humans appear to adapt to almost anything in their environment, including air pollution, noise and environmental dullness. Man’s apparent ability to adapt may be his most significant liability. On the one hand, it allows him to adjust to slowly developing adverse conditions; on the other, it could easily threaten his survival. Adaptability permits human adjustment to damaging environmental circumstances we aren’t aware of. When environmental conditions deteriorate to a point where they are readily apparent, it may be too late to reverse the cycle. If an individual has a feeling of wellbeing in the built environment that surrounds him, it is reflected in his activities. The type of space that covers us can either stimulate or be in habitus. Some have tried to isolate how spaces (man-made and open space) play a behavior role in our way of life and specific ways of thinking. While these studies can be rationalized from many perspectives, a case can be made that the type and amount of spaces in our urban areas do, to some degree, shape our social behavior. As urban life becomes more stressful, the more significant the influence of open space [13]. Stress is most pronounced in low-income neighborhoods.

7.1.1 Money and race

Higher-income neighborhoods outside our major cities tend to be less densely populated, which may reduce the resident’s perceived need for public open space. Often, the lower a neighborhood’s economic scale is, the less likely it becomes for that neighborhood to have the available space and recreational activities required for good physical and mental development.

7.2 Economic value

Placing an economic value on urban open space related to public benefits is a difficult task. Land value in a free enterprise system depends on supply and demand. The value of the real estate is directly proportional to the market demand, potential use, and rights of ownership within its geographic locality. Publicly owned open space used for recreation does not fit into the regular private land market. The parcel’s value as open space cannot be measured in dollars in the same way as land or improvements for a commercial venture.

7.2.1 Fees and rents

One method of estimating the economic value of public open space is to monitor the success of a program and determine the revenue that is directly or indirectly generated by it [14]. At the same time, public parks are primarily supported by tax dollars appropriated through the general fund.

7.2.2 Value of nearby property

More indirectly, open space generates revenues by enhancing the value of adjacent private properties. For example, a 1977 study in Chicago concluded that property prices were $1000 higher for parcels within one block of an urban park as compared to a similar area. Hammer [15] estimated that for each acre of a public park adjacent to a stream, sur-rounding private property values would increase an average of $2600.

7.3 Ecological value

Ecological considerations directly related to land and resource preservation often are neglected. These include the function of open space for water-shed management, environmental quality, and esthetic appreciation.

Greenbelts adjacent to natural water bodies can reduce sedimentation, increase preservation, reduce the need for excessive flood control projects and lessen flood damage [16]. Areas of open space can:

  • Ensure groundwater recharge.

  • Improve water quality by reducing soil erosion and sedimentation.

  • Increase recreational benefits, such as nature study, fishing and boating.

  • Sustain wetlands, which provide wildlife habitats.

  • Absorb peak water discharge and naturally filter some of the suspended pollutants.

  • Keep lake and stream levels more constant over the entire year.

  • Enhance the community appearance.

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8. Urban green space planning and management issues

The benefits of green spaces for our cities are well documented, but they are seldom given desired attention with other computing land uses such as the residential, commercial and industrial use within the urban planning process. Negligence by planning authorities and decision-makers results in not meeting the quantitative and qualitative standards of green spaces and results in their unequal distribution on the spatial scale. Inaccessible green spaces within urban centers also raise concerns regarding city dwellers’ utilization. Primarily new developments in urban centers diminish the future opportunities for recreational provision, and most often, the existing green spaces are not very well managed. Various UGS planning and management issues are thus identified in the subsequent subsections.

8.1 Degenerating quality

The quality of green space is a critical determinant to assess its value to the urban population. In generic terms, the quality of green space is understood in terms of its esthetic outlook and the level of facilities served by it. But in the spatial planning domain, the density of vegetation and the spread of tree crowns can be realized as they essentially lead to the several ecological and social benefits associated with green space. Improved physical and mental health, reduced stress levels, and increased happiness and satisfaction amongst citizens indicate the existence of superior quality greens in the city. Scenarios of degenerating UGS quality are well reported across many cities [17]. The city of Bengaluru in India has seen a decrease of 78% in green cover over the course of four decades, along with its deteriorating quality. These scenarios can be related to rising accounts of air pollution, obesity, shrinking health, and social and psychological collapse amongst the citizens. Overall degenerating quality of the greens and cities can be associated with multiple factors such as lack of maintenance, not choosing native trees, urban sprawl on green belts and ecological areas, deterioration of green riverfronts and loss of biodiversity in forests.

8.2 Inappropriate policies and standards

Policy frameworks in an urban planning setup are intended to guide associated decision-makers in the field towards achieving suitable outcomes related to various city infrastructures. Provision, maintenance and broadening of appropriate green covers in cities require policy measures supporting the existence and promotion of several ecosystem services delivered by UGS. Recommendations made by World Health Organization (WHO) suggests the availability of a minimum of 9 m2 of green space per person, ceases the intent at large of appropriate green space provision policy as it follows the ‘one size fits all approach and neglects varying physical and social circumstances across world cities [18]. Furthermore, catering to large densities in urban centres, many cities fail to meet the standard. For example, (see Table 4) amongst many Indian cities, only a few cities like Chandigarh, Delhi, and Bangalore meet the WHO standard, and numerous like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Surat, Chennai, and Hyderabad miss it on a large scale.

CityCity area (km2)City population in million (census 2011)Area of UGS (km2)Per capita UGS (m2 per person)
Chandigarh1141.055047.37
Delhi148416.34324.4419.84
Bangalore7098.4315017.80
Mumbai73518.451226.61
Ahmedabad4645.5721.83.91
Surat326.54.4611.843.32
Chennai1768.69111.26
Hyderabad1727.758.720.88

Table 4.

Per capita UGS in Indian cities.

Source: author.

The Ministry of Urban Development sets out urban and regional development plan formulation and implementation (URDPFI) guidelines for, Government of India and suggests appropriate urban development standards. It identifies UGS as part of organized greens within the city’s social infrastructure and categorizes them based upon their spatial hierarchy as housing area, neighborhood, community, district and sub-city parks (see Table 5). The population to be served per unit and associated area requirements are mentioned within these categories. Such standards meet the quantitative aspects of UGS, but attention to their physical distribution and accessibility in regards to providing the serving radius is missed out.

S. no.CategoryPopulation served per unitArea requirement (ha)
1Housing area park50000.50
2Neighborhood park15,0001.00
3Community park1,00,0005.00
4District park5,00,00025.00
5Sub city park10,00,000100.00

Table 5.

Categories of UGS in Indian cities as per URDPFI guidelines.

Source: URDPFI, volume 1.

Indian cities broadly vary in topography, and thus while setting out UGS standards and policy measures, it is crucial to incorporate their diverse local climate context and cultural practices, which these standards miss out on largely.

8.3 Inadequate recreational programming

Developing the proper functionality of an UGS is vital to make it enduring. In the context of UGS associating them with the recreational programming during the planning process, it drives them to become more functionally sound and exciting and vibrant for citizens use. But a large number of green spaces in urban centers lack on this front as greens existing across the riverfront, green belts and even large cities scale greens are usually found with the least footfall and thus are encroached by slums and squatters [19]. Even in low hierarchy greens such as local or neighborhood parks, the absence of supporting recreational amenities such as sitting area, walking pathways, sports facilities, biking trails, open gyms, etc. are either not found or are not so well maintained. One of the studies in the Alexandria city of Egypt brings forth the lack of recreational programming of UGS and how it negatively affects the usability of city greens by the urban citizens (see Figure 8).

Figure 8.

Inappropriate recreational programming in Al Shalalat park Alexandria, Egypt. (Source: 2003; De Sousa; thinking brownfields into green space in the city of Toronto).

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9. Strategies for urban green spaces

Improving the UGS scenarios in our cities requires strategic measures with the coordinated efforts of all decision-makers and the stakeholder’s participation. These measures would intend to improve the qualitative and quantitative structure of urban greens in our cities, ensuring equitable distribution and making the greens accessible for citizens. Improving the planning process, strengthening the spatial data, enhancing quality greens, applying ecological principles, using altered greening practices and promoting public participation are discussed in the subsections below as the strategies for UGS improvements.

9.1 Improving UGS planning process

UGS assists sustainable development by being environmentally, socially and economically viable. The accustomed green planning process involves using standards approach wherein a set of standards are used while deciding greens provision. The standards approach ensures enough green spaces exist in cities, but it often compromises other vital aspects. UGS should be of satisfactory quality, adequate quantity, well-distributed and variably accessible [19, 20]. The process of determining standards should be appropriate for the greens’ of the greens and should be custom made. They are using local intensive methods such as neighborhood index which are more suitable for the green planning process. The planning process needs to be flexible enough to take in the political change occurring in the cities and should integrate a multi-disciplinary approach involving natural, social, economic, planning, and legal components.

9.2 Strengthening the spatial data

UGS are a system of ever-evolving complexity, and to plan them effectively, spatial information is required that is fine, vigorous, and constantly updated. Geographic Information System (GIS) is one such tool that processes the geospatial data from satellite imagery, aerial photography and remote sensors helping to understand the current green spaces needs. It puts together vast amounts of spatial information and thus assists in analyzing the areas of priorities for UGS and determining the feasibility of developing new green sites in our cities [21]. In GIS, one can run numbers on queries, monitor fluctuations, predict environmental effects and thus help urban planners seek amplified visibility into the available data. Improved public participation is also achieved by using GIS tools for planning UGS, as people can get to know the actual ground reality to be achieved.

9.3 Enhancing the quality of urban green space

For adequate UGS planning, the existing green spaces in the city need to be addressed first. The stub semi-natural land with quality vegetation and varied, rich species can produce sound recreational and biodiverse spaces. The choice of vegetation plays a crucial role in determining and enhancing the quality of greens in a space. Choosing a natural species composition that supplements the biodiversity of the area is required. In cities undergoing densification, innovative greening techniques such as green roofs, green walls, street sites, and renaturation are very beneficial to improving green quality [22]. On an architectural scale, green needs to be saved by making effective plans. Also, site trees should not be cut during the construction phase. Proper distribution of UGS within the cities should be ensured to enhance their accessibility and visibility. Efforts to green the city streets should be made using various shrub species in order to improve the overall quality of UGS.

9.4 Applying ecological principles

The efficacious planning of city greens can be achieved by utilizing ecological principles such as greenways, green fingers, and green belts. Using these principles aims at availing the optimal use of UGS geometry, thus enhancing their accessibility and diversity. Greenways act as a UGS management tool and are usually developed linearly across cities, contributing effectively to city greens. They are created along roads, railways, rivers and ridges helping to preserve green spaces and bring green vegetation into urban areas. Green fingers are conceptualized in the shape of human fingers and have green spaces set in a radial form spreading from city centre to periphery [23]. They bring green vegetation into the core of settlements and their adjoining areas, enabling citizens easy access to UGS. Green belts are set out to act as a protective mechanism checking the outward growth of cities. They are usually created in a ring form at city outskirts to prevent urban sprawl. They also acted as city boundaries separating one city from another. They contributed mainly to preserving city vegetation by safeguarding peripheral land for agriculture, forestry and recreation.

9.5 Alter greening practices

Within compact, dense cities, the land availability is less and thus, altering greening practices are required to fulfill the cities UGS requirements. In such cases practice of green roofs and walls comes to the rescue. Green roofs are the roof of a building covered with vegetation [19]. They not just provide esthetically pleasing landscapes but also create a habitat for wildlife and lower air temperature and mitigate the urban heat island effect. Providing green roofs increases property value in addition to many other benefits. Green wall, on the other hand, is a vertical greening typology wherein the walls are covered with vegetation. It can be used to enhance green spaces on land by using effective multi-level greenery designs. To encourage more and more people to use green roofs and walls, various policy measures in terms of economic incentives and tax exemption is required. Also, spreading environmental knowledge regarding them will increase the willingness of more people to implement these alternative greening measures.

9.6 Public participation

The end-users of the UGS are city residents, and thus it is essential to involve them in the planning process. Public participation programs need to be thoughtfully planned and provide all the necessary information to the stakeholders. The urban planners and decision makers need to be open-minded and committed to considering the stakeholder’s inputs. To have active participation, the stakeholders need to explain the decision-making process and have a visual presentation clearly. For effective public participation, the demographic structure of the area needs to be identified, and further, the goals for UGS needs to be set accordingly [24]. Developing a questionnaire based on the area profile, demographics and UGS requirements should be formulated. To educate the citizens regarding UGS, workshops, seminars, and expert discussions can be conducted, which will also help the decision makers better identify local needs and demands.

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10. Conclusion

With the rapid urbanization occurring in our cities, the need for sustainable development is more than ever. UGS are significant contributors to sustainable development as they provide us with several ecological services. They assist carbon sequestration, reduce the urban heat island effect, act as a barrier for noise pollution and bring down air pollution. The built environment is majorly affected by the UGS as they comprise recreational spaces for citizens that promote social inclusion in communities. Urban planners play a significant role in the provision of UGS in our cities. They are the primary decision-makers guided by the various standards, policies, laws and legislations. But most of the time, UGS seldomly take a back seat in the planning process over other land use such as residential, commercial, industrial and institutional. Therefore, it is essential for urban planning to address the challenges associated with UGS and suggest various strategies and measures. Indian cities face many challenges with the incredible pace of urbanization, such as less quantity of UGS and inappropriate quality. UGS is not equitably distributed in many cities and is not easily accessible [25]. The intended purpose not being served causes dissatisfaction amongst the city residents. To improve the situation of UGS in our cities, it is utterly vital to improve the planning process and at the same time strengthen the spatial data available to the decision-makers [26]. It is primarily important to work on enhancing the quality of UGS and incorporate various ecological principles available to us in the planning process. In cities undergoing densification and reduced land availability, alternative greening practices such as green roofs and walls can be of great help. Above people are all that avail the UGS, so it’s imperative to involve them in the planning process. It is equally essential for the youth to take this up in their hands of responsibility, and that is only possible if they have been given a chance, ensured support and most importantly, allotted funds for improving the UGS.

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Written By

Akanksha Sangwan, Anjali Saraswat, Nand Kumar, Satish Pipralia and Ashwani Kumar

Submitted: January 17th, 2022 Reviewed: January 25th, 2022 Published: March 1st, 2022