0347-B5

People's Perception toward Value of Urban Greenspace in Environmental Development

Miyan Rukunuddin Ahmed, Rakibul Hassan 1


Abstract

This study delves with the effects of trees and greenspace on city dwellers with regards to urban physical, ecological as well as psychological environment. An opinion poll has been conducted in the recreational greenspaces of metropolitan Chittagong, the second largest and port city of Bangladesh, to find out public perception and attitudes toward urban greenspace and trees as environmental unit and outdoor recreational component. This paper seeks to stimulate discussion as well as to provide a survey of existing recreational greenspaces of Chittagong city, and it would also hope to serve as an indicator for planning a new urban greenspace development program to provide aesthetically magnificent physical and psychological environment for the urban dwellers. The study has revealed people's perception and attitude toward value of urban greenspaces in environmental development, and their attitude toward problems and importance of greenspace development in metropolitan city of Chittagong. A total of 175 randomly selected respondents (119 males and 56 females) were surveyed. The `hit and miss' method was applied in the survey. Interviews with semi-structured questionnaire were conducted with visitors in prominent greenspaces of Chittagong metropolitan area. The greenspaces surveyed were Foy's Lake, Patenga Sea Beach, D.C. Hill Park, Court Hill, Shah Amanat Park, Sishu (children) Park, Second World War Cemetery, and Batali Hill. The study analysed visitors' responses about urban greenspaces development and management on the basis of the social and demographic conditions of the respondents -- education, occupation and income. Respondents' knowledge about environmental and psychological values of greenspace was analysed. The perceptions of the respondents about urban greenspace development constraints and management strategies were also analysed.


Introduction

Trees and the greenspaces are basic forms of human experience. Psychologists, sociologist and mass people agree on the view that the quality of urban life depends largely on the amount and quality of greenspaces within it or close to it. This greenspace, when it exists, is usually occupied by trees, which, apart from this aesthetic value, are increasingly considered to play a vital role in the protection of the urban environment (Olembo and Rham 1987). Urban greenspace not only improves ecological and psychological environment of urban population but also uplift economic conditions of the community. Green is the colour most restful for our eyes, presumably because we evolved in a predominantly green environment. Greenspaces bring back certain harmony to the urban environment and therefore, play a vital social role in ceasing urban tensions. In presence of trees, city dwellers take part in the rhythm of day and night so that their minds come to rest and find peace (Bernatzky 1978). The urban greenspaces are developed and managed exclusively on the basis of their aesthetic and spiritual values than on utilitarian benefits. Only recently has their full value to urban dwellers been considered and a closer look is given to the environmental services and economic benefits they provide. The primary function of urban parks and green areas is to ensure satisfactory surroundings for recreational and social activities (Nilsson and Randrup 1997).

The enormous rate of population growth along with the growth of urban development, leads to drastic exploitation of the nature resulting to an unhealthy and unwealthy ecology, which is alarming to the urban dwellers. Cities in many developing countries are experiencing the problems like deterioration of air quality, higher air temperature, increased noise levels, greater psychological stress and decreased sense of community. These facts increasingly recognized the need for urban greenspaces. With lack of greenspace, the exponential population increase in the twentieth century will make physical, social, psychological and environmental hazards in the third world countries.

Values of urban greenspace in amelioration of environment

Urban greenspaces serve several primary functions like maintenance and sustenance of natural process such as water, gaseous nutrient cycles, support of flora and fauna, and maintenance of psychological health through beautification and enhancement of the appearance of a particular area (Wenger 1984). Greenspaces help keep cities cool, act as natural filters and noise absorbers, improve micro-climates, and protect and improve the quality of natural resources including soil, water, vegetation and wildlife. Trees contribute significantly to the aesthetic appeal of the cities, thereby help to maintain the psychological health of their inhabitants (Kuchelmeister and Braatz 1993).

Due to the intrinsic affinity of humans towards green nature, it inspires them to involve in outdoor recreation activities. Virtually all urban people have the desire to go away from the travail of daily life. Not all of them can arrange such an outing than to the urban greenspace recreation. Some of them may have time constraint, others may have time but unable to afford the cost of outing, this deprived urban population from outside the city. They ultimately have to depend entirely upon the urban green space for recreational pursuit. Urban greenspaces have ameliorative effects over both ecological environment and psychological environment of urban population. Thus urban greenspace can provide the minimum requirements of natural setting to prevent mental alienation of people from nature. Trees and greenspace can improve the optimal carrying capacity of the existing urban recreational area.

Objectives of the study

This survey was designed to investigate the value of urban greenspaces in environmental development and outdoor recreation pursuit in Chittagong metropolitan city. The objective was to analyse the impacts of greenspace on the physical and psychological environment of urban dwellers. The specific objective was to reveal the response and perception of urban dwellers toward value of greenspaces in their socio-psychological life and city's natural environmental improvements. This study also endeavoured to analyse people's response toward urban greenspaces development constraints and management strategies.

Materials and Methods

Study site

Chittagong, the second largest and port city, is the gateway and commercial capital of Bangladesh has a substantial and self-sustaining economic base. It lies in the extreme southeast of the country between 20_35' and 22_59' north latitude and 91_27' and 92_22' east longitude. The city now covers an area of 209.66 sq. km., but the statistical metropolitan area (SMA) is 986.34 sq. km. and has a population of three million (BBS 2000). Chittagong is geographically well placed for the development of greenspace within and around the city. Once the hills of the city and the surrounding area were naturally rich with greenspaces of panoramic beauty and elegance, but in recent years deforestation associated with firewood collection and furniture making as well as hill cutting principally for brick making and housing development have stripped the hills bare (Anon. 1993). However, a limited number of greenspace still exists in the urban area of metropolitan Chittagong. The survey was conducted in the following recreational greenspaces of Chittagong namely Foy's Lake, Patenga Sea Beach, D.C. Hill Park, Court Hill, Shah Amanat park, Sishu (children) Park, Second World War Cemetery, and Batali Hill.

Sampling, data collection and analysis

The study conducted interviews on people visiting various prominent greenspaces of Chittagong metropolitan city with semi-structured questionnaires designed for this purpose. A total of 175 respondents (119 males and 56 females) were surveyed representing different demographic and socio-economic conditions. The selection of respondents was done randomly. The `hit and miss' method was applied in the survey. In this method, the visitors were interviewed on basis of their first appearance. Those who were not interested or reluctant to respond were not bothered. The interviewing of the people were completed employing 10 weekends (Fridays) and 5 working days in the months of December, 1999 and January, February and March of 2000. Data were analysed on the basis of socio-economic and demographic factors of the respondents. Simple statistics were used in analysis and interpretation of the data.

Results and Discussion

Perception of the respondents toward urban greenspace values in relation to socio-economic factors

Income: During the survey, income level of the respondents was recorded in four groups: poor (<1500.00 taka), lower middle class (1501-4000.00), middle class (4001-7500) and rich (>7500). Table 1 shows that majority of the respondents (44.6%) belong to the middle class income group followed by rich (24%), lower middle class (20.5%) and poor (10.9%) respectively.

The table also indicates that majority of the respondents from middle class income group (83.3%) that agree on greenspace value in environmental improvement of the city as they are more conscious about their surrounding environment. The next category that shows value for greenspace is rich (71.4%) followed by lower middle class (61.1%) and poor (31.6%).

Table 1: Respondents with different income levels valuing Urban greenspace in environmental development.

Income level (in Taka)

Number of respondents

Number of respon- dents agree on greenspace value

<1500

19 (10.9)

6 (31.6)

1501 -4000

36 (20.5)

22 (61.1)

4001 - 7500

78 (44.6)

65 (83.3)

>7500

42 (24.0)

30 (71.4)

Total

175 (100)

123 (70.28)

Figures in parenthesis indicate percent

Education: Among the respondents with different educational attainments, 60.87% illiterate people agreed on greenspace values whereas72.73% respondents with bachelor or higher degrees admitted higher greenspace values in environmental development. It was observed that (table 2) people with more education level had higher positive perceptions about the values of greenspace in environmental development of urban area.

Table 2: Respondents with various educational levels admitted on values of urban greenspace in environmental development.

Educational level

Number of respondents

Number of respond- ents agreed on urban greenspace value

Illiterate

23

14 (60.87)

Elementary

27

18 (66.67)

Higher Secondary

81

57 (70.37)

Graduate & above

44

32 (72.73)

Total

175

121(69.14)

Figures in parenthesis indicate percent

Occupation: Table 3 shows that different occupational groups those were interviewed, 70.27% of service holders, 67.86% of businessmen, 68.92% of students and 68.42% of housewives agreed on greenspace values on environmental development. It was observed that there was no significance difference of views among the different occupational groups.

Table 3: Respondents with different occupations admitted values of urban greenspace in environmental development.

Occupation

Number of respondents

Number of respondents those agree on urban greenspace value

Service

37

26 (70.27)

Business

28

19 (67.86)

Student

79

51 (68.92)

Housewife

19

13 (68.42)

Others

17

12 (70.59)

Total

175

121 (69.14)

Figures in parenthesis indicate percent

Response on urban greenspace values in various factors of environmental development

Table 4 presents respondents' familiarity with greenspace value/role in various environmental factors. Respondents are very much acquainted with the aesthetic and shading effect of greenspaces.
Cooling effect, screening/privacy control and environmental ameliorative values are not as much acquainted as that of aesthetic and shade. Hundred percent of the respondent are acquainted with shading and aesthetic values of greenspace, whereas, 17.71%, 9.71%, and 37.71% of respondents were not at all acquainted with cooling effect, screening/privacy control and environmental amelioration respectively.

Table 4: Perception of the respondents about values/roles of greenspace in various environmental factors.

Environmental factors

Number of respondents acquainted/not acquainted about urban greenspace influencing environmental factors

 

Acquainted

Not acquainted

Aesthetic/recreational

175 (100.0)

----

Shading effect

175 (100.0)

----

Cooling effect

144 (82.29)

31 (17.71)

Screening/privacy control

158 (90.28)

17 (9.71)

Environment amelioration

109 (62.9)

66 (37.71)

Figures in parenthesis indicate percent

Fig. 1 shows that respondents those acquainted with aesthetic values were fairly aware (28.57%), aware (39.42%) and highly aware (32%). Hundred percent of the respondents were highly aware about the shading effect of the greenspaces. About cooling effect 64.58%, 19.44%, and 15.97% respondents were fairly aware and highly aware respectively. 40.51% were fairly aware, 2.91% were aware, and 26.58% were highly conscious about screening/privacy control effect of greenspace. About the environmental ameliorative values of the greenspace, 74.31%, 16.51% and 9.17% are fairly aware, aware and highly aware respectively. So majority of the people acquainted with the values of greenspace were fairly aware. Very few people were found to be highly aware about the greenspace values and had respect and felt some responsibility for the development of urban greenspaces.

People's response toward development and management of urban greenspace

Fig. 2 presents the reasons of failure of greenspace development activities to combat environmental problems in Chittagong city. Respondents ranked improper species selection first (30%), then ranked lack of organizational efficiency (23%), lack of policy about urban forestry (22%), lack of knowledge about urban forestry (18%) and lack of integration with other organizations (8%) respectively.

Legend:
LKUF = Lack of knowledge about urban forestry
IPSS = Improper plant species selection
LOE = Lack of organizational efficiency
LIO = Lack of integration with other organizations

This survey revealed that majority of the population (79.42%) think that greenspace of Chittagong are inadequate, compared to rest 20.58 percent population who thought that existing greenspaces were not adequate for the dwellers of Chittagong city.

Fig. 3 presents the opinion of respondents about the ways to increase/improve greenspace in metropolitan Chittagong. 54% respondents suggested for establishment of new parks (ENP), whereas 15%, 12% and 6% respondents suggested for increase roadside planting (IRP), increase institutional planting (IIP), and adoption of mass tree planting program (AMPP) respectively. 12.95% suggests for all of the above (AA) measures to undertake for greenspace establishment.

It was found that 65.14 percent people from all walks of life think that a separate organization is needed to cater urban forestry related issues compared to 34.86% people who think that separate organization is not required. Fig. 4 shows that 64% respondents are more eager to have a public service organization responsible for urban greenspace development compared to 23% of the respondents opined private service and 13% of respondents suggested joint venture organization. The reasons behind such choice by the people lies in the fact that people view that environmental conservation is a service, which is a human right, and state should borne all the expenses.

Legend:
ENP = Establishment of new parks
IRP = Increased roadside planting
AMPP = Adoption of mass tree planting program
IPP = Increased institutional planting
AA = All of the above

Conclusion and Recommendations

The response and perceptions of urban dwellers of metropolitan Chittagong city toward greenspace values in environmental development are very much positive and they feel for its development and proper management. In the light of what seem to be very considerable ecological, social and psychological advantage of urban greenspace, it is argued that, its systematic promotion could be one of the most direct means of promoting environmental development and meaningful participation in outdoor recreational activities by the urban dwellers. On the basis of the response of the people interviewed, I recommend the following measures for development of greenspace in urban area of Chittagong.

Literature Cited

Anon., 1993. City Health Plan, Chittagong Healthy City Project, Bangladesh, pp.27-28,

Anon., 1992. Preparation of Structural Plan, Master Plan And Detailed Area Plan for Chittagong (UNDP/UNHS Project No.BGD/88/052), Chittagong, Bangladesh,

BBS, 2000. Statistical Pocketbook of Bangladesh, 1999. Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Government of Bangladesh, p.466

Bernatzky, A., 1978. Tree Ecology and Preservation, Netherlands: Elesevier Scientific Publishing Company, p. 357.

Olembo, R. J. and P.de. Rham, 1987. Urban forestry in two different worlds. Unasylva, 39(155): 26-35.

Kuchelmeister, G. and S. Braatz, 1993. Urban forestry revisited. Unasylva, 44(173): 3-12.

Nilsson, K. and T. B. Randrup, 1997. Urban and peri-urban forestry. In Proceeding of the XI World Forestry Congress, Vol 1: 97 - 110.

Wenger, K. F., 1984. Forestry Handbook, New York: John Wiley and Sons, p. 1335.


1 Professor, Institute of Forestry and Environmental Sciences
Chittagong University, Chittagong 4331, Bangladesh
(Presently Visiting Scholar, Department of Forestry
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA)
Email: miyanahmed@hotmail.com
mrahmed@unity.ncsu.edu

Assistant Conservator of Forest
Bangladesh Forest Department

Paper prepared for World Forestry Congress, Sept 23-30, 2003, Quebec city, Canada