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4.1 Regional overview of urban forest resources

There is a paucity of information about the situation of the urban forest resources in the poorer cities and countries of the region. While cities like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and many cities in China have increased the urban forest cover, other cities have failed. There is much scope for increasing urban forests, provided social and political support is given. There is a need for more data on urban tree cover to aid urban planners and managers in determining the extent and distribution of the city's vegetation resource and its associated cost and benefits. Urban forest resource assessments should also be included in global monitoring efforts like FAO-executed global Forest Resources Assessment for the year 2000 (FRA2000).

Urban forestry in the region is underdeveloped and not well organised, especially in less developed countries (examples for Pacific see Box 1). There is little exchange of information and cooperation; country reviews hardly exist for less developed countries or are outdated.7 While many wealthier cities, have ambitions urban greening plans, like Tokyo (Box 2), in most of the less developed countries trees have not been integrated into urban planning and design. The city of Chandigarh is a notable exception (Box 3).

Data on urban tree cover can aid urban planners and managers in determining the extent and distribution of the city's vegetation resources and their associated cost and benefits. However, there is a dearth of information of green space area in developing countries (Kuchelmeister 1991). There is only incomplete global and regional information on the status of urban forests; few efforts exist to compile and synthesise it. For instance, in many cities and municipalities in the Philippines, green spaces are not mapped out. Tree population and tree canopy areas are also unknown. Often, information on green spaces includes only public green space (Palijon 1997). Problems related to urban greening resource assessment are: (i) in most cities in developing countries no comprehensive inventories exist; (ii) only data on urban forests managed by the government are collected; (iii) definitions and classifications of urban forests vary between countries and cities; (iv) definitions of urban areas vary as well and are changing.

The most recent information compiled by FAO about the global forestry situation, under the global "Forest Resource Assessment" of 1990 has not included urban forests and neither does the planned assessment for the year 2000 (FRA2000) (Singh 1997). The limited information available suggests, however, that the poor cities in the region are far from the international minimum standard set by WHO of 9 square meters green open space per city dweller. Cover of green space ranges from totally neglected to more than 25%, with a great variation (Table 1). Some situations stand out:

· Tokyo has a large forest of 21,630 ha to conserve water. The city management started planting many treeless areas more than 100 years ago. Now its forest management systems have changed to multi-storied forests from single-storied to improve water conservation. Hannou City, one hour from Tokyo, includes many artificial forests that covered 84% of the city area in 1990 (Yuji 1995).

· A study of 439 Chinese cities in 1991 shows that the overall green space was 380,000 ha or 20.1% of the urban area. Some 40% of the cities have more than 30% green cover (Su & Profous 1993). By the end of 1996, greening coverage in China's cities was 23.8% (Li 1997).

· Beijing aims to increase its green space to 40% by the year 2010 (Shan 1994).

· Since 1994 some 34 million trees have been planted in and around Nanjing city, China, 23 trees per inhabitant (Carter 1993).

· Manila aims to achieve a tree-to-person ratio of one to four (Palijon 1997).

In the region much "incidental greening" occurs (Furedy 1990) such as through deliberate retaining and planting of urban green. A great portion of urban greening falls under urban farming, which in many developing cities easily amounts to 50% of the total urban area (Smit 1997).

4.2 Rural/urban forestry interface

There is wide recognition that urbanization generates many unintended impacts on rural areas and that rural development policy frameworks should be broadened to include negative and positive aspects of urbanization. It is important to encourage the strengthening of mutually beneficial local rural-urban linkages.

The International Colloquium of Mayors - part of the International Conference on Governance - concurred that policy approaches to many urban-related issues, such as rural-urban migration, are beyond municipal and urban boundaries. For example, quite often, rural development investments are made in an ad hoc manner which only generate increased rural migration into urban areas. Investments also tend to ignore opportunities in peri-urban areas and linkages between rural and urban areas, frequently contributing to increase competition and contrasts between them.

Table 1. Urban green space resources


Green space % of total city

m3/per capita (year)

Comments (Reference)


Melbourne (residents)

Melbourne (day-time pop.)



163.3 m2 (97)

16.3 m2 (97)

Daytime population is 400,000 and residential 40,000 only ); Figure refers to parkland, garden and recreational reserves (Stokie 98)




Hong Kong

Hong Kong excl. country parks


28 (1994)


1.5% (97)

5.7m2 (96)

6.3 m2

66.0 m2

2.5 m2

Public parks and other green space Li 1997 increase to 40% by year 2000 (or 8 m2/inhabitant (Shan 1994)

(Jim 1998)

(Jim 1998, Chan 1988)




0.003 (80s)

0.12 m2

Unclear if it refers to public green space (Andresen/Plexman 1980)

(Pye-Smith 1996)




0.22 m2((86)

Parks/per capita (Ait 1998)


Takatsuki City urban forests

Tokyo Metropolitan Area

84% (1990)

4.52 m2

5,000 ha (Yuji 1995) refers to parks, planned to increase to 6 m2 (Box 1. )

Korea South



14.57 m2 (96)

Public green space (Park 1997)


Kuala Lumpur


2.25 m2 (97)

Public green space (Adnan 1998)

New Zealand



0.018 m2 (97)

Public green space, mainly sport fields with border trees (O'Reilly 1998)



7.5 m2 (97)

Public parks and open space, increase to 8 by year 2000 and finally to 18 ha/capita (Yuen 1998

Sri Lanka




Green spaces 2.4% private (golf course etc.) and 2.0% public (municipal parks etc.) (Wickramasinghe 1998)


Bangkok Metropolitan Area


1 m2 (97)

Planned to increase to 4-5 m2 by the year 2000 (Charmniern 1998)

Latin America & Caribbean


3.5 m2 (96)

(IDB 1997)




0.4 to 55% urban tree canopy (Nowak et al 1996)

Many rural forests at the urban fringe of today are threatened by urbanization in the region. The growing interface and inter-zone problem of turning rural forests into urban forests poses a great threat to not only the residents but the environment. Therefore planning and implementation in rural forestry needs to take urbanization into account.

There is need for foresters to participate in current dialogue on how to improve urban-rural relationships.8 Among other things, it is important to recognise that the integrity of an urban forest may depend on the surrounding green spaces. It may require green corridors to connect urban green spaces to larger rural forests, allowing plant and animal species in the city to maintain contact with the larger rural population (Nillson & Randup 1996).

7 Good references are found in FAO 1995, country reviews for Brunei, Fiji, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Hong Kong, India (Andresen & Plexman 1980), Australia (French & Sharpe 1976, Gray 1988, Moore. 1993), India (Tewari, 1994). Japan (RIN 1983), Brunei (Dayang Haktu 1989), Fiji (Williams 1980) Singapore (Lee 1985, Yu 1983), Pakistan (Sheikh 1976) on China two national workshops are available in Chinese (Li 1998).

8 For instance, an International Workshop on Rural-Urban Linkages, organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Government of Parana State and supporting UN agencies, including UNCHS/Habitat is such an opportunity. International Workshop on Rural-Urban Linkages Curitiba, Brazil, 10-13 March 1998 ( Rabinovitch 1998

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