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In Section One it was noted that urban forestry should entail the planned, integrated and systematic management of trees in urban areas. Subsequent sections have indicated just how important this is; the successful incorporation of trees into the physical and social fabric of towns and cities clearly requires integrating forestry into overall urban planning. Given the potential involvement of numerous and varied professional personnel, government and non-government agencies, community groups and individual urban residents, this is far from easy to achieve. It has been remarked that,

“The major challenge facing urban forestry in Kenya is institutional rather than technological in character” (Onganga, 1992:219).

This is probably true almost everywhere in the world. Integrated urban forestry planning has only recently begun to be seriously considered in many developed countries. For example,

“the development and implementation of a long term strategy for the urban forest by all the public bodies in a town or city is something quite new in the UK.” (Johnston, 1992:3).

The Forest of London, established in 1987, was the first city-wide urban forestry project in the UK. Similarly, in Hong Kong, which has a well developed urban forest, it was only very recently that all the departments involved came together in a working group to discuss an integrated approach to implementation; prior to this, each department had operated according to its own, different regulations (Webb, 1993).

7.1. Key players: an overview

The most integrated form of urban forest management is probably to be found in North America, but institutional arrangements adopted there are unlikely to be readily transferable elsewhere. Indeed, in different countries different bodies are charged with urban tree planting; furthermore, it may be anticipated that there is great variation in the proportion of land under different ownership arrangements (as outlined in section 3.2). Some of the major players that may be involved in urban forestry in developing countries are outlined in box 7.1. The list is almost certainly incomplete, and all groups are unlikely to be involved in any given town or city.

Institutional aspects of urban forestry are not commonly discussed in existing literature about urban forestry in developing countries. It is therefore difficult to assess the extent to which institutional aspects of the subject are perceived to be problematic, or at least in need of review. However, a few comments may be made on the role of the various key players.

Box 7.1.       Some of the major players potentially involved in urban forestry in developing countries
State political administration
  • Politicians
State departments
  • Forestry
  • Horticulture
  • Agriculture
  • Highways/roads
  • Irrigation
  • Utilities
Municipal Councils
  • Parks and Gardens
  • Town planners
  • Landscape architects
  • Legal advisers
Environmental NGOs
  • International
  • Local
Donor agencies
  • Bi-lateral (government to government)
  • Multi-lateral
Corporate Business
  • Multi-national
  • National
  • Local
Academic institutions
  • Universities
  • Other research bodies
Local groups of residents (organized or loosely knit)
  • Associated with the local school
  • Associated with the local church/temple
  • Environmental groups
  • Harvesters of tree products
  • Owners/managers of private tree nurseries
  • Private tree growers
  • Tree Wardens
  • Harvesters of tree products, etc.

7.2. The role of different players

Government departments

There is little specific mention of the role of government departments, beyond the account of Shyam Sunder (1985) (himself a member of the Forest Department), who documented how the municipal authorities of Bangalore were unable to supply large numbers of seedlings for urban planting. At the behest of a State politician, the Forestry Department (which previously had no urban remit) took over responsibility for tree planting in Bangalore, a matter in which, he argues, they were better equipped due to their superior nursery arrangements. An unwritten implication of the article is that there could be strong inter-departmental rivalry.

Municipal authorities

The support of local political leaders is often a key factor in the success of urban forestry. There are many examples in Latin America, for example, where the local mayor has had a strong influence on urban forestry. Thus in the case of urban forestry in Quito, Ecuador (documented in box 7.2), it was the interest of the new mayor that sparked the programme. Similarly, in Guatemala City, a campaign to ‘re-green the city’ was initiated in 1986 by a newly-elected mayor (Pokorny de Marcet, 1992). Political support for urban tree planting may even extend from Presidential level, as in the case of an urban reforestation campaign in Mexico City. Named ‘Cada Familia un Arbol’ (Each Family a Tree), the campaign began in the summer of 1990 with the objective of planting 1 million trees. It is reported that,

“…over 1.5 million trees were planted. A survival rate of 80% is expected by the local authorities, but a more realistic value may be 50 to 60%.” (Benavides Menza, 1992:36).

Advantages and disadvantages can be seen from the support of influential figures, as the case of Quito clearly illustrates. While resources may be quickly mobilized and popular support engendered, these will only serve effective purpose if the political demand for rapid results is prevented from over-ruling sound and sustainable implementation.

Municipal authorities often play a key role in advising and acting upon the legislative aspects of urban forestry, which are discussed in section 7.3.

Donor agencies

To date, urban forestry has played only a minor role in programmes of bilateral and multilateral development agencies. Support that has been given by large donor agencies appears to have been channelled mainly into peri-urban plantations for fuelwood and to a somewhat lesser extent to watershed protection in peri-urban areas. In this, as previously noted, both the FAO and the World Bank have been involved. In Mexico, the government of Mexico City recently signed an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank, under which “the city will receive a substantial international loan to finance an intensive reforestation campaign in the urban area”; the Government of Japan is also providing assistance for forestry in the suburban part of the city. (Caballero Deloya, 1993).

As bilateral assistance, technical support is provided on request by the U.S. Forest Service through its Forestry Support Program. Two examples of information exchange given by O'Rourke (1990) are,

“1. Adopt-a-City. A city in the United States can adopt a city in a developing country and exchange information on tree planting and removal, tree species, language, culture, etc.

2. Sponsorship. Professional organizations could offer a programme whereby municipalities, companies, or individuals could contribute to a fund that would pay for the membership and mailing costs of publications.”

Non-Governmental Organizations

A variety of local and international NGOs appear to run programmes in urban forestry. These may vary from small educational programmes to relatively large-scale initiatives, involving the funding of nurseries and seedling distribution. An example of the latter is the programme of CONCERN (an NGO based in Dublin, Ireland) in Mozambique (see box 4.8), which is particularly noteworthy in that it helped to set up an environmental division within the local city council, thus ensuring institutional sustainability when programme funding eventually ceases. CARE International is also reported to support urban gardening and tree planting in some of its country programmes (Kucheleister, 1991). An NGO working specifically in urban forestry is Tree People, a Californian based agency which supplies free fruit tree saplings to residents of Third World cities (Lipkis and Lipkis, 1990). The American Forestry Association based in Washington, D.C. is also involved in supporting national and international urban forestry through its ‘Global Releaf’ programme, which serves as a means of information exchange.

Although not a non-government organization, it may be mentioned that the American Peace Corps has been involved in supporting urban forestry in various cities of Latin America through the provision of a volunteer. This programme continues.

Box 7.2.Quito, Ecuador: an inter-disciplinary plan for urban forestry
Established as a colonial capital in the 16th century, Quito is now populated by some 1.3 million people and covers about 94,000 hectares. The city is considered an attractive one, with many tree-lined avenues and public parks. Legislation requires that at least 10% by area of new developments within the city are vegetated, although the nature of the vegetation is unspecified. In 1988 the newly elected mayor initiated a more deliberate and systemmatic approach to increasing Quito's tree cover.
A ten year urban forestry plan for Quito was prepared through the collaboration of the municipal government, an environmental NGO (Fundación Natura), and the United States Peace Corps, which assigned a volunteer to the project. An inter-disciplinary team of architect planners, foresters, an economist, an administrator, a sociologist, a lawyer, a public relations specialist and others were brought together under the leadership of a Quito architect and town planner, Juan Gangotena. Over nine months, the team conducted an analysis of the existing urban forest (using aerial photographs and data collected at ground level), projected the ideal level of tree cover, and estimated the shortfall. Among their conclusions was that in 1990 there was a deficit of some 525,000 trees in the city. The plan then set out a programme of action, finalized at a two-day planning retreat. Issues addressed included:
  • tree species selection (a greater focus on indigenous trees, and matching species to sites was recommended)
  • seedling production (increasing urban nursery capacity and efficiency)
  • plans for tree planting over the next ten years, set out by five urban zones:
    • major arterial roads
    • residential streets
    • parks and green spaces
    • private properties
    • special ecological zones
  • administrative reforms, such as systems of information management, training programmes, project financing and other management mechanisms
  • public promotion campaign (with a separate strategy for different target populations - schools, businesses, homeowners, etc.)
  • pilot project design (a specific urban forestry project for one neighbourhood of Quito, set within an integrated development plan for the area).
The team's analysis and recommendations formed a four-volume planning document, which was distributed in autumn 1990 amidst high hopes that, due to the considerable involvement of the Parks Department in its production, it would be successfully implemented. However, this responsibility was taken from the Department (despite the fact that it was staffed, through the intervention of the Mayor, by young and dynamic professionals) and placed under the direct control of the Mayor's office.
One year later, both some of the achievements as well as problems had become apparent. These included a marked increase in the quantity and quality of seedlings being produced in urban nurseries, and considerable public enthusiasm. A major failing was that too many trees, often of poor quality, were being planted with little regard for after-care, simply to meet the Mayor's publicly declared goal of planting 200,000 trees during his administration. Anecdotal evidence suggested at least 50% of the trees that left the city nursery between 1990 and 1991 were already dead. The former Peace Corps concluded that:
“The successful implementation of a sound urban forestry campaign in Quito has not been thwarted by a lack of support, but rather by misguided and politically expedient support for urban forestry at the highest levels of municipal authority. The mayor and other top officials have correctly perceived that urban beautification and environmental improvement through urban forestry yield them considerable political capital. In Quito, where mayoral administrations are limited to one four-year term only, the pressure for instant success is even more exaggerated, and spells doom for a program of urban forestry which must accommodate the long periods of time necessary for trees to develop in the urban environment.” (Murray, 1992:215).
However, she added that while Quito's urban forestry plan had been too ambitious in its goals, it had nevertheless provided an impetus for urban tree growing that would continue.
Source: S.P. Murray (1992) ‘Urban Forest Planning in Quito, Ecuador’


In some countries, China being a notable example, local industries are already taking an active part in urban tree planting as part of attempts to reduce industrial pollution (see box 4.5). Since, as writers such as Beatty (1985) have pointed out, an attractive, tree-filled city makes economic sense, companies and business men may also be willing to finance general urban tree planting campaigns. This was the case in Guatemala City, where 60% of the funding for the ‘re-greening the city’ campaign was being raised from private and corporate funding within a few years of its inception (Pokorny de Marcet, 1992).

Academic institutions

Research on urban forestry may be conducted through the Forestry Department (particularly on matters such as species selection), but may also be conducted by academic institutions - either universities, or other research bodies. Here institutional links ensuring that research responds to requirements, and that results are disseminated, will be particularly important.

Local groups of residents

In at least a few cities or towns of developing countries, local residents have already organized themselves into groups in support of urban tree planting and maintenance. This is reported, for example, in Egypt where residents of a clearly well-to-do neighbourhood formed a ‘Tree Lovers Association’ to ensure that amenity street plantings were well-maintained (Ali, 1992). Similarly, in Mexico City there is a citizen's group known as ‘Friends of Chapultepec Forest’ which has raised funds to restore this well visited park (Caballero Deloya, 1993). Ebenreck (1988:67) reports that in the city of Colima, Mexico,

“In 1985, a citizen group called Pro-Ecologica de Colima published a tree-planting guide designed to promote a “green Colima.” The guide cited the natural, psychological, and aesthetic advantages of trees for the city.”

In an echo of the point made above about political support, she adds that,

“Recognizing the popular support for this progressive campaign, local politicians have jumped in to push for a green city.”

The documented cases of urban dwellers setting up organizations to promote tree planting and maintenance tend to be among the more well-to-do. Whether any organization exists among poorer groups, for example the harvesters of jamun fruits and kapok pods in Delhi, is unknown.

Individual urban residents

Individual urban dwellers may be particularly involved in urban forestry through activities such as planting trees on their own land, or volunteering to become tree wardens in towns/cities where such schemes exist. As discussed in previous sections, urban trees may provide important benefits to some of the poorest of all urban dwellers in developing countries. Ensuring the equitable involvement of such people in the systematic, integrated management of urban forestry in Third World towns and cities may be one of the greatest challenges for the future.

7.3. Legal issues in urban tree management

For the effective, planned and systematic management of trees in cities, a measure of legal control is necessary. Laws may be necessary both to protect trees from removal, and to protect residents from hazardous trees. The extent and rigidity of enforcement of such legislation varies greatly; a country in which it is reportedly well-developed is the United Kingdom (Andressen, nd). Profous and Loeb (1990:180) have commented that,

“Law and Regulations controlling the removal and conservation of trees and other vegetation in cities are becoming commonplace and may have a striking effect on cityscapes throughout the world.”

In a survey of legislation and planning regulations governing trees and vegetation in urban areas of 35 responding countries (the number contacted was larger), they noted a wide variation in the current situation. The developing countries included were Brazil (São Paulo and other cities), Colombia, Ghana (Accra), India (Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh), Kenya (Nairobi), Mexico (Mexico City), Nigeria, People's Republic of China (Nanjing City), and the Philippines. A table summarizing their findings indicates that, in broad terms, legislation protecting urban trees was most comprehensive (in word; implementation was not evaluated) in Brazil, and to a somewhat lesser extent in India and Kenya. It seemed weakest in Colombia, Ghana, and Nigeria. However, this appraisal should be viewed with caution; Ghana, for example, is reported to have a “strong government policy to minimize tree removals, maximize greenspace” although no backing legislation whatsoever is noted. Some of the cases identified in the survey for which the protection of trees was mandated are given in box 7.3.

Box 7.3.         Examples of legislation protecting urban trees in developing countries
Aspect covered by legislationCountry
In designated circumstances (for example, parks, rare or large specimens, and scientific sites)(for at least some circumstances) Brazil, Colombia, India, Kenya, Mexico, China and the Philippines
In districts designated by government, including private landBrazil, India, and Kenya.
For species designated by the governmentBrazil, India, Kenya, the Philippines
Permits or licenses required for activities altering or impacting trees (except for public safety) on private landBrazil (minimum diameter set); Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, China (no minimum diameter)
Permits or licenses required for activities altering or impacting trees (except for public safety) on public landBrazil (minimum diameter set); Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, China (no minimum diameter)
Fines for illegal removal of treesBrazil, Kenya, Mexico, China, the Philippines.
Replanting required with diameter specifiedBrazil, Kenya, China.
Source: Profous G V and Loeb R E (1990) ‘The legal protection of urban trees: A comparative world survey’

Some laws protecting trees may concern the protection of steep slopes and lands near rivers and streams, rather than urban areas in particular; such laws exist in Brazil, for example (as noted in section 2) and in the Philippines. In some cases peri-urban areas may be covered by specific legislation, as in Kenya, where it is reported that,

“The Kenya Government Land Act (CAP 280) encourages people on the periphery of urban areas to plant trees by guaranteeing fair compensation for the plantings if the area is affected by a development plan approved by the government.” Profous and Loeb (1990:192).

However, they add that the enforcement and clarification of most laws in Kenya, as far as this subject is concerned, is reported as poor.

With respect to legislation protecting urban dwellers from hazardous trees in cities, or ones causing a nuisance (such as blocking access to solar energy), no information for developing countries was forthcoming from available literature.

This section on institutional issues ends the substantive discussion in this concept paper. It is concluded, in section eight, with a review of the major issues to be examined if the potential of urban forestry in the Third World is to be further developed.

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