Urban forestry, a neglected sector in Pakistan

June 22, 2015 Off By Web Desk

Karachi: Governments all over the world are turning to urban forestry to make their cities green, lower their temperature and improve environmental standards there but this important sector is seen badly neglected in Pakistan, especially its mega city Karachi.

Urban forestry is the careful care and management of urban forests, i.e., tree populations in urban settings for the purpose of improving the urban environment. Urban forestry advocates the role of trees as a critical part of the urban infrastructure.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) urban forestry is not a new concept, but it is one which appears to have growing potential. This is particularly true in developing countries, where urbanization is increasing at a rapid rate and a demographic switch from a predominantly rural to a predominantly urban society is taking place.

Although UN (1991) figures indicate that in 1990 only 37% of the total population of developing countries was urbanized, it is predicted that by the year 2025 the proportion will be 61%. Already rapid and uncontrolled urbanization in many developing countries is having fundamental social and environmental consequences. The role of urban trees in ameliorating this situation might, at first thought, appear to be small. Yet urban forestry may provide Third World town and city dwellers with significant environmental and material benefits.

Urban forestry has immense social and community benefits. Urban forests improve our quality of life and help to beautify communities. Trees and well- landscaped grounds are among the most important factors considered when individuals choose a place to live. Green spaces entice neighbours outdoors on a regular basis, where they build friendships and community ties.

Workers with a view of nature from their desk were found to have better overall health, increased job satisfaction, less frustration with tasks and overall higher feelings of life satisfaction.

Trees and green spaces can help ease the everyday pressures of life. Even brief encounters with nature can improve one’s ability to concentrate. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms in children are relieved after spending time in nature. Roadside plantings and landscaping can reduce driver stress. Patients with views of trees from their hospital bed spend less time in the hospital than those with no view.

A study of inner city neighbourhoods in the U.S. suggests that greener residences had lower crime rates. Inner city families with trees and greenery in their immediate outdoor surroundings have safer domestic environments. Neighbourhoods with well cared for landscapes contribute to reduced feelings of fear and violence.

Trees improve air quality by removing atmospheric carbon dioxide, absorbing air pollutants and producing oxygen. The average Canadian urban tree is estimated to remove about 200 kg of carbon over an 80 year period. An analysis of the Washington D.C. metro area concluded that tree cover generated annual air quality savings of $49.8 million.

Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20 – 50 per cent in energy used for heating.

Trees prevent runoff and erosion, resulting in improved water quality and reduced stormwater runoff or flooding. For every 1000 trees, nearly one million gallons of stormwater run-off is prevented. Trees are a critical source of habitat for many wildlife.

Property values of well-landscaped homes can be increased by 5-20 per cent. A study of urban forests shows that for each $1 invested in urban forest management, up to $3 in benefits is returned to residents through increased property values, removal of air pollutants, and energy savings through shade. Shoppers have indicated that they would be willing to spend up to 12 per cent more for products in business districts with attractive urban forests.

Developed countries pay close attention to make their cities green and clean; that is why the top 10 greenest cities of the world are situated in the developed world. These cities are:

1. Copenhagen. Rated one of the world’s most livable cities, the metropolis of nearly two million people is known for advanced environmental policies and planning, with its goal to be carbon-neutral by 2025 and Cleantech Cluster of more than 500 companies. City infrastructure is designed to be conducive to bicycling and walking rather than cars.

2. Amsterdam. Everyone rides bicycles in Amsterdam and has been doing it for decades. It’s one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, due in part to its compactness and flatness, as well as its bike infrastructure, including protected paths, racks and parking. The city has more bicycles than people.

3. Stockholm. Stockholm was the EU’s first city to win the European Green Capital Award. With coordinated environmental planning that began in the ’70s, ample green space and a goal to be fossil fuel-free by 2050, it’s one of the cleanest cities in the world.

4. Vancouver. Vancouver is densely populated and expensive but its moderate climate makes it a highly desirable place to live. So does the fact that it’s the cleanest city in Canada and one of the cleanest in the world.

5. London. One might night think of foggy Londontown as a green city but the town has actively worked to leave its bleak, early Industrial Revolution image behind it, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating more green spaces.

6. Berlin. Coming in first on the European main continent, Berlin’s Environmental Zone in its city core allows only vehicles that have a sticker indicating that it meets certain emissions standards.

7. New York. New York is, perhaps surprisingly to some, the greenest large city in the U.S. Its greenhouse gas emissions are low for a city its size and its population relies heavily on its extensive public transportation system. The city itself has put in place a green building initiative.

8. Singapore. After industrialization brought heavy pollution, Asia’s greenest city tackled the problem head on, creating its first Singapore Green Plan in 1992 to tackle clean water, clean air and clean land. It aims to have zero waste in landfills by the mid 21st century.

9. Helsinki. Like many Scandinavian cities, Finland’s capital encourages bicycle use and public transportation. The city has been working toward sustainability since the late ’50s with energy efficiency programs and an aggressive Sustainability Action Plan adopted in 1992.

10. Oslo. Norway’s capital rounds out the four Scandinavian cities in the top ten. The city government has its Strategy for Sustainable Development which includes an aggressive program to protect its natural surroundings. Its Green Belt Boundary protects wild areas from development.