Urban green spaces: Concept and significance


Cities are the engines of economic growth and opportunities for a nation. They offer significant employment opportunities, educational facilities, housing facilities and medical facilities. Robust spaces required for infrastructures, markets, commercial complexes, residential and industrial areas become zones of preferential land use in a city. The balance between development and environment protection will always remain an issue of concern for experts and planners. Concrete expansion swallows green spaces, or the so-called lungs of the cities. And, while the importance of cities has increased significantly over the centuries, the transition from rural to urban life has had complex social and environmental impacts (Woolley, 2003). The urban landscape has been in a constant state of change and transformation. Roger et al. (1999) elaborated on the key factors which influence changes in the urban landscape (cited in Thompson, 2002): 1) Technical revolution, focused on information technology and changes moving from global networks connecting people to local networks; 2) the ecological threat, with its implications on sustainable development; and 3) social transformation where life patterns reflect increasing life expectancy and new lifestyle choices.

This chapter tries to answer and elaborate upon some important aspects related to urban green spaces. It also maps the concept with the reality in Delhi by discussing the following questions:

What are urban green spaces?

Why are green spaces necessary in cities and urban areas?

Where should these green spaces be located and made available?

How much is the minimum requirement or threshold for green spaces?

Urban green spaces

Green spaces such as parks, community gardens, trees, terrace gardens and cemeteries play an inevitable and important role in urban environment protection and have their own relevance in the urban ecosystem. Simply defined, they are open spaces or natural spaces within a city. According to the United Nations Environmental Protection Agency, a green space is land that is partly or completely covered with grass, trees, shrubs or other vegetation. These do not necessarily have to be urban parks, but can include spaces like kitchen gardens to bio-diversity parks. Developing green spaces in cities involves innovations, research and planning to make the most of the spaces available. The real and indigenous nature of green spaces can also change over time due to construction of transport networks, residential, commercial and industrial complexes. These can result in the loss of inherited species of flora and fauna and changes in the characteristics of soil in the natural green spaces in cities. It is important to study and minimise this loss as much as possible since these spaces can play a key role in sustainable urban growth.

In ‘GreenKeys - Urban Green as a Key for Sustainable Cities’, a manual published by the European Union, an urban green space is defined as a public open space in an urban area which is predominantly characterised by a high percentage of vegetation and non-paved surfaces. An urban green space is directly used for active or passive recreation; or indirectly used by virtue of its positive influence on the urban environment, serving the diverse needs of citizens and thus offering a good quality of life in cities. It can assume different characteristics, for example, parks, gardens, squares, cemeteries and allotment gardens, as well as woodlands and areas for nature and landscape conservation (Carlos et al., 2008).

Typology of urban green area

Dunnett et al. (2002) provides a typology of green spaces in the cities as: amenity green areas, functional green areas, semi-natural habitats and linear green areas. He further classifies them in subcategories as below. Main types of green areas by Dunnett et ah, 2002:

Amenity green areas

  • 1 Recreation green areas
  • 1.1. Parks and gardens
  • 1.2. Informal recreation areas
  • 1.3. Outdoor sports areas
  • 1.4. Play areas
  • 2 Incidental green areas
  • 2.1. Spaces
  • 2.2. Housing green spaces
  • 2.3. Other incidental spaces
  • 3 Private green area domestic gardens

Functional green areas

  • 4 Productive green areas
  • 4.1. Remnant farmland
  • 4.2. City farms
  • 4.3. Allotments
  • 5 Burial grounds
  • 5.1. Cemeteries
  • 5.2. Churchyards
  • 6 Institutional grounds
  • 6.1. School grounds
  • 6.2. Other institutional grounds

Semi-natural habitats

  • 7 Wetlands (open/running water)
  • 7.1. Marshes and fens
  • 8 Woodlands
  • 8.1. Deciduous woodlands
  • 8.2. Coniferous woodlands
  • 8.3. Mixed woodlands
  • 9 Other habitats
  • 9.1. Moors and heathlands
  • 9.2. Grasslands
  • 9.3. Disturbed grounds

Linear green areas

  • 10 River and canal banks
  • 11 Transport corridors (road, rail, cycleways and walking routes)
  • 12 Other linear features (e.g., cliffs)

Dunnett shows a classic work of identifying several classes of urban green spaces. These spaces are sometimes demarcated and can be easily categorised, while sometimes, there can be an overlap due to lack of space in the city, especially in developing countries. For example, linear green areas are also used as parks, gardens and play areas in Delhi. Children in cities do not have huge areas to play or indulge in sports activities, so they play in any accessible open space.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >