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The most innovative multipurpose urban forestry approaches are not yet widely implemented in the Asia-Pacific Region; however, they clearly demonstrate the urban forestry concept in action and indicate the direction urban forestry will develop.

5.1 Examples of urban forestry practices

In addition to more traditional urban forestry practices like street trees for beautification and parks for recreation, innovative urban forestry practices or a combination of practices and integration of urban forestry practices with urban agriculture and other urban services are evolving in the region.

5.1.1 Peri-urban plantations

Forestry plantations in peri-urban areas have tradition in the region. Most of them have been planned under the framework of rural forestry projects, some of them with the objective to respond to the pressure and needs of urban dwellers. Over the last decades more plantations have used multipurpose trees, with a focus on fuelwood and timber production.

Recognizing that deforestation in and around arid urban areas is closely related to fuel (energy) requirements, plantations with the aim top produce fuelwood adjacent to or in close proximity to population centres were promoted to meet urban fuelwood demands. However, such urban related plantations (usually of exotic species) with few notable exceptions, such as Ethiopia, have not improved fuelwood supply. Often, instead of fuelwood more lucrative poles were produced or poor people did not have sufficient income to buy fuelwood. There is a trend to resolve this paradox by implementing a mixture of agroforestry plantations and improve natural forest management, often managed by small holders. In some cites progress has been made in incorporating timber harvesting and related forest products with intensive outdoor recreation activities in urban forest (Kuchelmeister 1989).

5.1.2 Parks and greenways

Parks are traditionally one of the most obvious forms of urban greening. Some countries in the region have a long tradition of establishing well-maintained parks, or have recently established nice conventional parks, like the city of Hanoi. Other parks are neglected, or are threatened by buildings, spontaneous settlements, vandalism and environmental stress and restricted government funds. Many parks in the region can only be preserved and managed through a commitment of residents and innovative management approaches. This is the case of some parks in Delhi. In Yokohama, Japan, the city's Board of Parks and several citizens' associations operate an ecological park (Kaneko & Nanbu 1997). In Singapore a new programme has been developed, in which schools adopt a neighbourhood park (National Parks 1997).

Depending on the size and design parks can provide a range of environmental services. Parks with some forested areas also improve air quality, reduce noise pollution, reduce wind speed and add aesthetic and property values (Kuchelmeister 1993). Large parks with more extended forested areas also provide animal habitat, increase urban biodiversity, and can provide viewing pleasure for people (Parks Department 1994). Timber production combined with recreation has been practised as well.

Municipalities in developing countries face similar problems related to the lack of safe water, inadequate waste management and pollution control, occupation and degradation of sensitive lands, flooding, soil erosion and noise in unplanned settlements. Experience form other parts of the world suggest that alternative design of parks are a very efficient use of existing open space with the aim of serving the most urgent needs of underprivileged communities. One outstanding example is the case of Durban in South Africa. This city has successfully developed multi-functional parks as a component of slum improvement programme. These multi-functional parks are managed in new ways, e.g. the use of parks for storm water catchments or sewage treatment through the design of retention ponds or artificial wetlands has required close management cooperation between park and public work departments. Similarly, protecting sensitive habitat while encouraging diverse public uses requires active involvement of residents of communities (ICLEI NN). The potential of multi-functional park design and management is insufficiently known among urban planners and other stakeholders concerned with development of low-income communities.

In many parks in China fruit species and bamboo for building are harvested; and lakes are stocked with crabs and fishes (Kuchelmeister 1991). Innovative aquaculture, raising fish in mature waste-water stabilization ponds have been demonstrated in Lima (IDB 1997).

Public parks are especially important for the urban poor, because they have few affordable options for recreation and thus place a high value on green areas. Lower income residents tend to frequent city parks more than wealthier citizens do because they lack the financial resources and leisure time to reach distant recreation sites. For instance, in Bangkok, on Sundays and holidays 10,000 people visit Lumphini Park, most of them from low-income families in nearby residential areas (Pleumaron 1988). In Malaysia recreation areas that are developed and managed by government agencies have mainly satisfied the outdoor recreation needs of the urban lower income groups; commercial outdoor recreation areas have mainly catered for the middle and higher income groups (Wan & Wan 1993).

In intensive recreation areas, however, soil compaction and physical damage can create stress and shorten the life of trees. Developing greenways (linear parks) may help to take some pressure from traditional urban parks.

Greenways are also called linear parks, because they are narrow vegetated corridors. They can have multiple uses and functions, such as improving environment quality, providing recreation, and serving as alternative transportation route (bicycles and foot path) (IDB 1997).

Greenways can be sited along natural systems such as rivers, ravines, ridge lines and flood plains. They are usual less expensive land. In wealthier cities greenways are also incorporated into highway systems. Greenways have the additional benefit of serving as natural corridors that connect larger wildlife habitat.

Many cities in China have traditional greenways, designed for bicycle traffic. Cities like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore have ambitious greenway programmes. This park connector network of Singapore aims to maximize under-utilized land such as drainage reserves, foreshores and road reserves by turning them into green corridors, linking parks and natural sites. 14 park connectors comprising a total length of 40 km will be completed by the year 2000 (Briffet et al 1997, National Parks 1997). In other cities greenways are not yet sufficiently acknowledged among policy decision makers and planners in the region.

A very specific type of greenway is riparian reforestation or riverside tree planting. Many urban riverbanks are used as garbage dumps and are unsightly. Planting these watersides with various forms of vegetation cannot only make them aesthetically more attractive, but also assist in controlling flood and protect the biodiversity of the site.

For recuperation riverside ecosystems are best achieved by mimicking the natural planting as much as possible or maintaining historical park-like landscapes. Know-how about eco-sound urban riparian reforestation is still not sufficiently disseminated in the region.

5.1.3 Street trees

Rich and poor residents, business people and tourists all appreciate the benefits provided by trees along streets. However, street trees are often more difficult to establish and maintain than their counterparts in parks. Due to inadequate planting space and high costs of individual protection of trees collision and vandalism have destroyed many street trees.

When properly managed, street trees provide significant amounts of fuelwood, poles, fruits or medicine and can also be very attractive in poor neighbourhood (Kuchelmeister 1991).

Systematically planting of street trees for timber production is applied in China and Malaysia. Two of the most important amenity trees in Kuala Lumpur produce quality timber and there is a small industry exploiting such timber as is produced from roadside tree felling. Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) (Webb 1998) is actively promoting a wider variety of timber trees.

Only a limited number of species are planted as urban trees in the region due to lack of systematic trials of species and poor access to planting material even though trials have shown some urban trees to be most hardy, aesthetically pleasing and easy to propagate. A disturbing trend is to replace tough, multi-purpose, native plants with unproved modern ornamentals (for instance in Bangalore; Gadgil & Parthasarathy 1977).

Often low-care wild edible plants are excellent candidates for use as ornamental street tree plantings. Potential candidates (food and amenity) for avenue planting for the Sub-Himalayas and the Andes have been identified (Kuchelmeister 1993).

A survey of avenue trees in Calcutta has documented the multiple use of street trees. The study showed a direct link between high human activities and a high density of trees. Local people protect and care for the trees. If people worshipped a particular tree, its chance of survival rate were almost 100% (Malhotra & Kumar 1987).

In other words, street trees survive and flourish best when people living adjacent to them commit themselves to be responsible for tree care in the one or other form. Too rarely public departments have tapped this potential. It can be anticipated, once the full or partial responsibility of trees by residents is institutionalized, the survival and viability of street trees will be increased dramatically.

In many cities in the region like in Thailand and the Philippines local business people have invested much in potted woody plants, which are sited in front of their shops or on roof gardens. The general perception of the exclusive public responsibility for street tree planting has prevented creative public-private partnership. For instance, street trees are especially desired in business districts because local shop owners can advertise on the tree protectors. Entrepreneurs generally prefer to sponsor trees in high traffic central locations. These sites are the most challenging for good growth conditions, but a good business sponsor can better ensure the survival and vitality of trees.

5.1.4 Trees in farming

Several cities in the region including Ahmendabad in India, or Shanghai in the PR of China aim to be self-sufficient in food security (Smit 1997). Many urban trees suitable for resource poor settlements can provide food, particularly fruits, but also edible leaves, shoots and even flowers.

In many cities in developing countries urban gardening contributes significantly to food supply and green space. Agroforestry gardens in Pacific (Thaman 1987) and elsewhere are the most significant urban green space in the region. Citrus spp, mango, macademia nut, papaya, coconut palm, avocado, pear are some of the useful fruit trees cultivated in urban gardens in tropical developing countries in the region. Some tree species require less space than often assumed. Bananas and papayas can be squeezed into spaces between buildings along the edge of roads and even in containers on rooftops or balconies. Many trees can be manipulated into shape by training, coppicing, lopping, or pollarding. Climbing woody perennials like passion fruits (Passiflora spp) are very suitable for small gardens. Some fruit and nut species are also available as dwarf varieties that are perfect for small spaces (Kuchelmeister 1993).

Managing trees and shrubs on the same land as agricultural crops or livestock in some form of spatial arrangement or temporal sequence in poor neighbourhoods is common. Urban forestry programmes should facilitate this trend to plant tree crops and other trees to increase the agricultural land. There are no reasons why different agroforestry techniques developed in rural area could not be adopted to the context of urban areas. Far instance, Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) a diversified system of contour hedgerow inter-cropping in which apart from the hedgerow, permanent and non-permanent crops are grown together on the same land can be promoted in low-income settlements to improve farming and stabilize sloping land. The hedgerow component also acts as a barrier against soil erosion and provides mulch to cover the soil.

In arid and semi-arid areas, it is a common urban forestry practice to establish windbreaks to protect agricultural land and enhance the productivity of the land. Properly managed windbreaks can provide significant quantities of fuel and poles and other tree products without jeopardizing their primary function. Often a network of small windbreaks are more efficient and easily to implement than classical shelterbelts (Kuchelmeister 1989).

Concerning urban agroforestry, foresters should take part in the current research and development efforts by agronomists to increase urban agricultural productions (Lanly 1997).

5.1.5 Watershed management

Urban and peri-urban forests play a significant role in water conservation. In Tokyo urban forest management systems have been changed from single-storied forests to multi-storied ones to improve water conservation (Yuji 1995).

Drinking water supply: Perhaps one of the must urgent priorities in large metropolis is providing clean water to its residents and then dispose safely the wastewater. An abundant supply of clean water depends on the health water supply catchment area or the watershed.

In deed, protection of the suburban and rural areas that serve as the source of their water supplies, is one of the more traditional fields of action of urban forestry, as witnessed in the case of Hong Kong, or Nepal (Braatz 1983). Most of the forestry activities to protect watershed in peri-urban areas are typical rural forestry projects, insufficiently integrated into urban planning process. There is still much scope for integrating forestry with other water resource initiatives. The goal of improving the quality of water can be integrated with flood control, recreation and health and education projects.

Wastewater disposal can also be a major component in urban forestry. Wastewater can be filtered through setting ponds and wetland. It can also be used for irrigation in urban agriculture and forestry. Irrigated tree plantations can be a safe and productive means of wastewater disposal, as practised in arid zones in Egypt and Iran (Braatz 1993), to name a few.

The practice of at least partially treated wastewater in stabilization ponds, integrated into park systems and other green areas has to be considered as an economic and ecological alternative for conventional urban wastewater treatment. This was proofed in a study in the city of Battambang in Cambodia.

The practice of treated sewage fisheries along with garbage and sewage farming in peri-urban wetlands play a significant role in waste recycling and urban sanitation in Calcutta. When using wastewater to irrigate edible crops the potential health risks must be evaluated (IDB 1997, FAO 1989).

Storm water control: Floods cause considerable damage in the region. Since many informal settlements are located in flood prone areas, they are the most hit and often the least assisted after flooding. As more forested areas are replaced by pavement, less storm water is infiltrated into the ground and runoff volume increases.

The quantity of storm water that runs off of Australian cities each year is about equal to the amount consumed from domestic storage. Therefore there is a great potential for expanded collection, storage and re-use of storm water for non-drinking purposes (French & Sharpe 1976).

Trees can thus be deliberately used to help to achieve the objectives of storm water management at optimal costs, which are to prevent the loss of life, to reduce property damage by runoff of severe storms; to prevent land and watercourse erosion, to protect water resources from pollution, to preserve natural watercourses and their ecosystems.

Integrated storm water and pollution control may involve water collection through the following urban greening techniques: (i) using wetland and parks as important components of a city's flood control system; (ii) designing roofs and pavements to distribute water onto grassed/vegetated areas or sumps or bioswales.

5.1.6 Protected areas

Protected areas are natural or reconstructed habitats that receive some level of ecological protection in order to preserve their ecological or biological functions. Protected areas vary in size from one a few hectares of bird nesting habitats to forests of over thousand hectares. Generally they tend to be small in urban areas (IDB 1997).

Greenbelts: One special form of protected areas are greenbelts, which are large parcels of land in and around cities where urban development is totally prohibited through zoning, or public ownership, easement or development restriction. Greenbelts provide such environment benefits as noise and air pollution abatement, climate amelioration biodiversity, watershed protection and wildlife habitats. Greenbelts are basically open space buffer amid the congestion and pollution of most large cities (Miller 1997).

In the region ambitious greenbelt programmes have been designed, for instance for Djakarta in Indonesia (Kuchelmeister 1989), and Seoul in South Korea. Most of these greenbelts are under threat today. The greenbelt of Seoul is challenged by the need for urban housing and business. Revision of the conservation-oriented zoning concept to a harmonious conservation-development zoning approach might be the only solution to retain part of the greenbelt (Lee & Kumata 1998).

Conservation of biodiversity and especially wildlife is predominantly served by rural forest and woodland ecosystems rather than urban forests. The urban forest is expected to play its part. Biodiversity is increasingly stressed in urban forestry management in the region, e.g. in Malaysia, where selected forest species in urban area may serve as a form of ex-situ conservation (Yap 1995). Kuala Lumpur is the only city in the region with primary forest in its centre (Ariffin 1989).

Quite often botanical gardens, located in the urban areas have a richness of biodiversity (Katzir 1996). In North Vietnam, the oldest trees, and also the ones with the largest diameter are conserved in the botanical garden of Hanoi and not in the rural forests (Dan 1998).

Although urban forests may contain less biological diversity than rural woodlands, the animals that occur in the urban forests are still numerous (Moll & Young 1992). For instance, a study in Jakarta found that birds in an urban environment tend to have low species-richness but high density (Indrawan & Wirakusumah 1995).

On a larger scale urban forests can create or restore biological diversity that will reconnect a city to its surrounding bioregion. Suburban wetlands can be some of the most productive natural ecosystems. Greenbelts and greenways can serve as biological corridors (Groome 1990).

Wetlands: Overlooked as swamps, or nuisance for development, wetlands deserve attention as a priority candidate for protected status. Usually they contain high level of biodiversity and offer a range of environmental services. Although they are fragile ecosystems they have considerable pollution abatement properties. They also provide flood protection, groundwater recharge, wildlife habitat. The entrepreneurial opportunities like fishing and tourism should also be not underestimated. Thus rather draining, filling wetland, city planners and investors need to appraise these ecosystems for their value as a protected resource (IDB 1997).

Protected key areas and buffer zone concepts developed in rural forestry can be adapted to the urban context.

5.1.7 Solid waste management and land reclamation

Wealthy cities are vast producers of solid waste, the disposal of which has become a serious problem. Per capita solid waste generation is still low in poor neighbourhood, but as their per capita income increases, the quantity of solid waste is likely to grow.

Recycling of waste from urban forests can play a role in solid waste management, especially in cities in developing countries, and should be encouraged not only to reduce the need to dispose of vast amounts of waste but also to secure new raw materials from extraction for re-use.

In more wealthier cities one main unexploded urban forest resource is the biomes from tree pruning operations, which currently goes to landfills in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. With at least 800,000 trees being pruned annually in each city, prunings are a significant resource. In Hong Kong, all the pruning from street and park trees, which is around 9,600 cu m per year is applied as mulch for shrub beds in the parks. This is equivalent to an annual saving of $ 576,000, because the park authorities do not have to purchase these mulch materials. Wood chips may also be composted, together with green "urban waste" to produce a horticultural product. They may also be used as a substrate for growing mushrooms. Chips may be fed directly to a boiler to generate electricity that may be fed back into the city grid as a source of revenue and sustainable power (Webb 1998).

Reclamation: Unused and degraded land and landfill sites can be reclaimed through afforestation (Wong 1995). By regreening landfills or other reclamation sites, a city can effectively cover an eyesore and add more vegetation to its park system. The idea of greening parks on terminated landfills, i.e. where controlled disposal of waste material to land is exercised seems to have become popular in some cities in America. In Southern California an arboretum was developed after the landfill was completed (Boddaert 1998). Afforestation of landfills has also been practised in Hong Kong (Chan et al 1996) and other cities in the region.

Although reforestation at the end of the landfill's operational life is generally regarded as a good idea, permitting agencies may be concerned that the tree roots in a layer of topsoil spreading over the clay cap, may compromise the integrity of the clay cap. With the right tree species, proper site preparation and an appropriate root barrier fabric, there should be no environmental hazards occurring due to reforesting a landfill.

In the region there is much scope that tree specialists and landscape architectures joint solid waste management initiatives by forming landfill-to-park-conservation alliance and converting the "waste" of the urban forest into a valuable resource.

5.2 Policy and institutional framework for management of urban trees and forests

5.2.1 Responsibility for urban trees and forests

The responsibility for urban tree planting takes three main forms in the region (i) the planting of trees on main highways, important roads, along city watercourses and reserves is the responsibility of the government9:10.(ii) Tree planting along mixed-roads, municipal roads, city parks, etc. is the responsibility of the local government authorities. (iii) Home garden tree planting is the responsibility of homeowners.

Tree planting in public areas can be done through permanent work forces of official agencies, hired labour, contractors to government and/or local authorities (as done for all urban tree planting in public areas in New Zealand and Australia), or by a multiplicity of NGOs. In almost all the countries except in China, some contractors are now NGOs, which work for a smaller profit margin. In China, such work is the responsibility of individuals, encouraged by legislative provisions. Tree planting by NGOs and the general public is mainly to commemorate instances such as the World Environment Day, World Food Day, Environment Week, etc. In fact, urban tree planting on such important dates is the predominant activity conducted by NGOs in several cities in the region.

Maintenance of trees planted in public urban areas is often very confused, with no proper arrangements. As a result, many areas where trees have been planted suffer from inadequate maintenance work (Widanapathirana 1997) especially where budgets are limited. Planting and maintenance through NGOs or contractors appears to give better results.

Box 1. Urban greening integrated into comprehensive environmental protection of Tokyo

1. Ordinances

In 1992 the Tokyo Metropolitan Government adopted the Ordinance for Conservation and restoration of nature, which provides for the designation of conservation areas, the regulation of development and the designation of green areas.

· Conservation zones: green areas which incorporate forests, waterside locations, or historical landmarks are designed as natural conservation zones which restrict activities such as development and logging.

· Development regulations: Any development that affects 1000 square meters or more of natural land or farmland must be approved by the government of Tokyo. In addition, the approval of the Tokyo Metropolitan Nature Conservation Council must be sought before any development involving 30,000 square meters or more can be undertaken.

· Green area promotion: Highly urbanized districts, where the proportion of green area is low, are designated "greenery promotion areas". In those areas, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, working in conjunction with municipal authorities, implements a variety of urban greening projects.

      Establishment of Parks and Other Open Space (1992)



Number of parks

Area (ha)

Per capita park areas (ha)


Ward area





Tama Area





Island Area










2. Metropolitan Plan for doubling the Amount of Urban Green in Tokyo

In 1994 the Government adopted the Tokyo Metropolitan Plan for doubling Greenery. This plan is designed to promote comprehensive, systematic policies with regard urban green areas and bodies of water in Tokyo. Long range goals outlined in the plan include doubling the amount of green space in Tokyo, improving the quality of green space, and promoting activities to achieve these goals. Some primary activities to be achieved by the early 21st century include

    · Two hundred million trees in Tokyo urban districts

    · Six square meters of parkland for every Tokyo resident

    · Conservation of forests and waterside areas in their natural states

The Plan consists of the following four components:

Increasing nearby green space: in parks and greenbelts; private homes and facilities; in pubic facilities, roadsides, watersides, restoring clear streams.

Preserving existing green space: conserving of nearby green space and watersides; conservation and establishment of land for agriculture, forestry and fisheries; preservation and use of natural parks; preservation of valuable wildlife.

Organising a system to increase green areas: cooperation between government and citizens; systems of providing plant materials; information dissemination and awareness-raising and education programmes:

Creating a water and green area network

Source: Tokyo Metropolitan Government 1998

5.2.2 Legal framework

Legal considerations are important determinants of urban tree establishment (planting and maintenance) in the region. There are three aspects to this: tenure, the rights to harvest, and the general legislative framework. With regard to land tenure, governments often own public lands and impose restrictions on planting, with individual public agencies sometimes not being legally able to directly initiate tree planting. Other public areas are given over to public or private agencies for management such as along waterways. Sometimes only the government has the rights to harvest and utilise timber and fuelwood and this can provoke conflicts between the government and those who are expected to plant trees.

People as individuals work for their own benefit and tree planting in public areas may not produce direct benefits to them. In developed cities, this may not be a problem, but in poorer ones this issue could well be relevant. One exception is all the cities in China where by law the people are enabled to obtain direct tree benefits such as fruits, fuelwood and timber from the trees planted in public areas over a thirty-year term.

Box 2. Urban forestry in its infancy - the Pacific

Although urban agroforests are well developed in the Pacific (Thaman 1987), modern urban forestry is virtually non-existent in the developing countries of the Pacific region.

A case in point is the city of Apia in Samoa, where there is no coherent tree greening strategy. An organised plan of street tree planting is non-existent. This is mainly due to the fact that Apia is an agglomeration of autonomous districts; each governed by a local Chief. As such there does not exist a Parks Department of Apia. Whatever planting is done is under the governance of the Department of Conservation, which is chronically under-funded. Along the foreshore and around the government buildings, palm and ficus trees have been planted, but this seems merely part of building development than anything else.

Along the foreshore or boulevards are a number of old ficus trees, dense and big and terribly butchered. Proper pruning practices are non-existent but merely a hacking and whacking job.

Whilst Samoa tries to attract tourism, the idea of beautification and planting of amenity trees is in a stage of infancy. There are some well kept gardens that belong to the larger hotels.

In the outskirts of Apia, where the more affluent people live, one can find nice gardens, often enriched with larger trees. Decent maintenance is lacking however. In the gardens of the less well endowed, one can find often cropping trees and further out in the villages there are merely small farmers with crops such as pineapples, breadfruit, papayas etc.

Amenity planting programmes may be able to be developed in some sort of a tourism development initiative, rather than through the 'local council' (Buddingh 1998).

Box 3. Urban forestry integrated in urban planning in Chandigarh, India, a model and planned city

Chandigarh, a model and planned city of India, is characterised by a rich and well-developed urban forestry component. Besides having clusters of trees on the outskirts, trees have been planted all along roadsides, roundabouts, parks, and gardens and within the premises of institutions and religious places. At present, 66 types of trees planted along road sides have been listed along with their common and English names, taxonomic family, flowering time, and uses (Singh et al NN).

5.2.3 Research and training

There is a scarcity of trained professionals and other stakeholders in urban forestry, a distinct lack of regional exchange of information, and little technology development and transfer from other parts of the world, the international forestry community is conspicuously absent in urban forestry efforts but if involved, could facilitate greater awareness and actions on the local, regional and national level. Urban forestry is young in the region but encouraging examples nevertheless exist:

· In Australia arboriculture is progressing, but not well organised and does not have a research base (Moore 93).

· In China, institutionalised urban forestry research began in the 90s. There are urban forestry research agencies in the Chinese Academy of Forestry, as well as in some other provincial forestry research institutions. The Branch of Urban Forestry of the Chinese Association of Forestry was established in 1994. Beijing Agriculture College set up its Urban Forestry Department in 1995 (Li 1997).

· In Malaysia, the Forest Research Institute is actively involved in urban forestry, a top priority programme (Philip 1997).

· In Korea, the Forestry Research Institute has focused on (i) reclamation of damaged and disturbed urban forest ecosystems; (ii) ecological-landscape management of urban forests; (iii) investigation of Seoul's urban forest ecosystem. Planned related activities include assessment and functional classification of urban forests and optimal arrangement of urban forests (Park 1997).

· In the Philippines, The College of Forestry at the University in Los Banos has developed technical guidelines, manuals and extension aids, conducted studies on economic and socio-economic aspects of urban forestry and provided training on various levels (Palijon 1997).

Multipurpose urban forestry is even more in its infancy. Existing information is incomplete, widely scattered and not easily accessible including on the relationship of urban dwellers (particularly the poor) in developing countries to urban green areas. Concerning urban agroforestry, foresters are insufficiently active in the current research and development efforts by agronomists to increase urban agricultural production (Lanly 1997). Forestry is also under-represented in multiple resource inventories.

Very few training and extension programmes exist for urban forestry and none has a special focus on low-income citizens.

5.3 Issues and challenges facing urban tree and forest management and development

Urban forests are under threat in the region. In addition to ecological constraints of planting and managing forest in an urban environment, the most common obstacles are (a) insufficient awareness and appreciation of the economic value of urban trees and forests; (b) rural bias of forestry development policies; and (c) policy and institutional deficiencies. There is a multitude of policy and institutional barriers, of which the following can be highlighted: (i) inappropriate tree and land tenure and outdated laws and customs; (ii) unsustained financial resources; (iii) insufficient local participation; (iv) deficiencies in integrating urban greening into urban planning practices under rapid urban growth conditions, especially in poor cities; and (v) lack of multi-disciplinary approaches to urban forestry.

5.3.1 Ecological constraints

While limited information suggests great species richness (the total number of species), in practice species diversity is very limited. A large portion of the urban forest is comprised of relatively few species and in some cases, unjustified preference for a few exotics. Genetic characteristics that could confer resistance in a stressful environment, although critically important, appear to have received little attention.

Urban vegetation managers face a number of practical challenges in planting and maintaining urban forests: conditions of urban sites for greening are often harsh, and although new technologies have been developed in wealthy countries to match vegetation to sites, many practices are only suitable for wealthier cities and regional technology transfer is slow. Partly this reflects lack of urban forestry expertise in the less affluent countries of the region where there are only few opportunities for urban forestry training and education. Weak or non-existent urban forestry extension services also constrain technology adoption although some Forest Departments, such as in Fiji and Thailand, are involved in urban areas.

Urban growing conditions (Table 2) differ markedly from rural conditions in that the urban paving and buildings modify the urban mesoclimate in a way which decreases wind speed, raises temperature and precipitation, lowers the relative humidity and increases the quantity of contaminants by a significant factor (Nilsson & Randrup 1997). Technical constraints identified as affecting urban forests in the Philippines are presented in Table 3.

Table 2. Basic challenges to trees in an urban environment




Compacted, contaminated, poor drainage


Blocked by tall buildings

Air supply

Polluted trees may die

Above-ground space

Reduced by buildings and utility lines

Below-ground space

Underground wires, building foundations, compacted soils, etc.

Damage by humans

Vandalism, accidents, etc.

Many woody plants are suitable for urban planting; for instance, 6,000 tree and 2,000 shrub varieties have been identified as urban plants in China (Li 1997). Nevertheless, out of more than 90 different tree species in Beijing, 70% of trees are either Populis or Sophira japonica (Profous NN). Only a limited number of species are planted as urban trees in the region due to lack of systematic trial of species and poor access to planting material even though trials have shown some urban trees to be most hardy, aesthetically pleasing and easy to propagate. One of the major causes of the death of newly planted urban trees all over the world is drought (Bradshaw et al. 1995). Tree species tolerant to drought and other urban stresses11 are often not appreciated by the elite (Chandrakanth et al. 1990). This makes design of urban beautification programmes difficult in India and elsewhere. A disturbing trend is to replace tough, multi-purpose, native plants with unproved modern ornamentals (for instance in Bangalore; Gadgil & Parthasarathy 1977). The preference for exotic plants in the tropics is not surprising because there has been little serious investigation into indigenous plants apart from the more decorative species (Jim 1991). Today relying more on native species is advocated by some urban foresters in the region, e.g. in Malaysia (Yap 1995).

Table 3. Technical constraints of urban greening in the Philippines

1. Limited open spaces

1. Very narrow street corridors

2. Too much above and below ground utilities. Some utilities are even wrongly mapped

3. Too polluted and harsh an environment for trees

5. Soil conditions: very thin top soil, hard pan, saline soils, and improper soil mix

6. Prevalent vandalism

7. Lack of technical expertise (arborist, landscape horticulturists)

8. Dearth of technical information

Source: Palijon 1997

5.3.2 Limited awareness and appreciation of the importance of urban trees and forests

Even though imperfect, valuation techniques exist for urban forest resources, used so far in the wealthier countries in the region; they have to be adjusted and tested for poor cities. When urban forestry activities are included as components of larger urban improvement programmes, it is important that they also be subjected to financial, economic and social-economic analysis. Beyond valuation, the challenge is getting value of urban trees and urban forests accepted by policy makers so that they are "given a chance" alongside more lucrative uses of scarce urban land.

Demonstrating the worth of urban forests and trees could help to secure policy support for programmes; placing a value on urban green resources is thus one of the most significant challenges in urban greening programmes (IDB 1997). The monetary value of urban trees is not easy to estimate, and very little hard data are available for cities in developing countries (Kuchelmeister 1997). Even where value can be demonstrated and communicated, many urban forests take years to provide their full benefits, often making it difficult to gain popular support. Without immediate tangible benefits, the time horizon for poor people to invest might simply be too long. In this aspect, urban forests share a common problem with rural ones.

Valuation of forestry's many non-material and non-marketed benefits is never easy. The problems faced in their valuation have recently been reviewed in some depth and many observations already made will apply equally to urban as to rural forests.12 Efforts have been made to adapt valuation techniques specifically to urban forestry. An example is "Green City", a user friendly management tool to quantify the environmental benefits of urban trees, developed by the American Forest Association (Box 4).

Economic analysis of urban forest resources is particularly relevant when sizeable tracts of urban land are involved. Such land has high alternative value in private use, because it can yield commercial and residential buildings that are precluded when the land is set aside for urban greening. Valuation is in such cases needed to help support justification for greening rather than lucrative real estate functions of the land.

Box 4. Costs and benefits analysis of urban forests as a tool for local communities

The American Forests' Urban Ecosystem Analysis (Green City) offers a means of quantification of the environmental benefits of urban trees. American Forests has transferred Urban Ecological Analysis methods to local communities so that they can recognise, measure, and advocate better natural resource policies in their communities. Benefits include energy conservation, urban heat island reduction, storm water runoff, air pollution reduction, noise and glare control, and carbon sequestering. The analysis has been developed to help local people demonstrate the value of trees in their community to its leaders, putting tools into the hands of local people, so that they can make community-based decisions that affect long-term planning, management, and funding (Kollin 1997). The method will also be tested in several countries in the Asian region (Falconer 1996).

One approach is to put land up for bid with the restriction that it can only be used for urban greening purposes. The highest bid might be seen as the economic value of a given green space. If benefits are difficult or expensive to quantify, a simple cost-effectiveness analysis could be used. Moving to a social cost-benefit analysis complicates matters but answers the question of whether an urban forestry project is worth doing, when all benefits and costs (private and social, tangible and intangible) are included.

The replacement cost method is a rough and ready means of assessment that provides an upper bound for non-market benefits (e.g. replacement cost of wastewater systems of wetland and ponds). The recreation benefit of public parks that attract visitors can be approximated using the travel cost model, an exercise that favours small urban parks without an existing close substitute for comparison.13

The value as perceived by the people themselves is the ultimate indicator of acceptance or rejection of an urban forestry initiative.

5.3.3 Rural bias of development policy

There is widespread recognition that urbanization generates many unintended impacts on rural areas and that rural development policy frameworks should be broadened to take into account negative and positive aspects of urbanization. Forestry needs to strengthen mutually beneficial complementary rural-urban linkages, thus supporting a sustainable and socially just development process. Urban forestry with a clear focus must be put on the development cooperation agenda.

Many development professionals have assumed that by supporting for rural development initiatives aimed at achieving rural prosperity, they could reduce migration to cities. Historically, the decision to direct most international assistance to rural rather than urban areas is related to the traditionally negative image (Box 5) of the city and its impact on rural areas. This image has only recently been under reconsideration.

It is now recognised that the growth of urban populations has an internal dynamic independent from rural migration. Nevertheless, development thinking is still dominated by a rural bias (Hall et al 1996) both in individual countries and in their external aid partner agencies.

Box 5. Three development myths about urbanization

The image of cities among rural development specialists tends to depict the city alternatively as:

· the perverse result of unequal and unbalanced development - which leads to conflicts of interest between the urban elite and rural masses;

· the result of the spread of development models formulated in industrialized countries - a thesis which encourages the interpretation of the relationship between city and outlying areas in terms of conflict between urban and rural economies;

· the effect of the assimilation of exogenous cultural models by non-western societies - focusing on social and cultural aspects - in which the rural/urban relationship is seen as a conflict between the culture of modernization and consumerism and traditional, wholesome culture.

Source UNCHS 1997

This rural bias is particularly marked in forestry14, which has focused almost exclusively on rural areas (Kuchelmeister 1996), despite the fact that foresters have highlighted the significance of urban needs more than two decades ago in the Jakarta World Forestry Congress (e.g. Andresen 1978). A probable major reason for this is that most contacts for development assistance in forestry are forestry ministries, which are not responsible for urban and peri-urban areas. Furthermore, foresters tend to have less influence in cities than do landscape designers and gardeners (Lanly 1997). It seems that some foresters are mentally blocked, concerning their negative image of the city, instead of facing the urban challenges and opportunities for the forestry profession.

Most current urban greening activities in development cooperation are initiated by the agricultural community15, which does not yet sufficiently support urban forestry.

While today many officers in bi- and multilateral development agencies agree that there is no policy reason for not including urban forestry into the development agenda, little action has followed. FAO has a modest urban forestry programme (Braatz 1993). USAID is in the process of launching an urban forestry initiative. Because in Latin America urbanization has already reached 75%16, it is not surprising that the Inter-American Development Bank has taken the lead among development agencies in urban greening.

Growing urban poverty has resulted in a more positive attitude by development cooperation agencies towards aiding urban areas and has also increased recognition that urbanization generates many unintended impacts on rural areas and that rural development policy frameworks should be broadened to respond to both the negative and positive aspects of urbanization. However, the relationship between urban and rural areas seems to have been left to either the market or to destiny; there are few specific sound policies in this fundamentally important field. The overriding policy question is therefore how to strengthen mutually beneficial complementary rural-urban linkages, thus supporting a sustainable and socially just development process.

5.3.4 Policy and institutional deficiencies Legislation, tenure and custom

Land tenure could conceivably be the most significant obstacle to urban greening in many cities. People who do not have a piece of land, or do not feel even partly responsible for one, are not likely to care for trees or other vegetation planted where they live. Traditional laws and customs can impede or facilitate urban greening. Especially where urban sprawl invades traditional villages there are conflicts between developers and customary rights. Informal local tree laws in Beijing (Profound NN) are now ignored by investors in Beijing. Different cultural backgrounds are often ignored in the planning of open space17. Cultural values can lead to diametrically opposed impressions of the urban environment in the region. For example, in Japan urban green space has traditionally been in the form of Shinto or Buddhist shrines that were, and continue to be highly maintained areas adorned with ornamental gardens, buildings, etc. The purpose of these places is both religious and social, so vegetation is kept to a minimum, and there seems to be no tradition of "creating a natural ecosystem" (Shun-Ichi Watanabe 1992).

In unauthorised settlements people grow food crops (for which tenure is less critical as they are seasonal) but do not care for urban forests, where their tenure is in doubt. The right to use vegetation can be unclear in urban areas. In cases of common areas with unspecified title, there may be disputes as to who has the right to plant, harvest or otherwise use an area.

At the time many laws were enacted, many ordinances did not deal with urban forests; law is often slow to adapt to new situations and remains behind the times in many countries. For instance, in the Philippines, national policies, laws and regulations and local ordinances need to be revised and formulated (Paladin 1997). Inadequate Financial Provisions

Table 4 makes it evident that there is a wide range of per capita spending on urban forestry. Data on expenditures for urban forestry are only available for those few cities with ambitious programmes. In most cases only information about public urban forest sector spending is known and often there is no separate calculation showing urban forestry expenditure, as is the case of Hong Kong (Chan 1998, Jim 1998).

Table 4. Municipal forestry budget (1997)



US $/
Capita *

% of Annual Budget


Bangkok Metropolitan Area, Thailand




Charmniern 1998

Hanoi, Vietnam




Dam 1998

Seoul , Korea




Park 1997





Yuen 1998

Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne (day-time pop.)







Stokie 1998

Stokie 1998

Christchurch, New Zealand




O'Reilly 1998

Comparison USA


Cincinnati, Ohio




Gulick 1998





Quennell 1998

North York




Quennell 1998

* Exchange rate February-March 1998

In urban forestry programmes it is often overlooked that funds are required for regular maintenance and protection and therefore much urban forest management is a sort of crisis management (Kuchelmeister 1991). Without a budgetary commitment to upkeep, a city's investments in this public amenity can become a waste of money.

Ideally, most funds for urban forestry must come from local sources. However, in most cases urban forestry programmes compete poorly with other services, especially in times of financial crisis and in developing countries. The challenge is to find ways of securing general tax revenue and to encourage private investments in urban forestry (Morgan 1996).

Although the list of benefits obtained from urban forests is lengthy, the resources spent on urban forestry research in the region seems to be low. For instance, the Forest Research Institute of Korea spends only one per cent of its annual budget on urban forestry research (Park 1997). Poor local participation

Historically, participation in urban forestry at the local level has been limited to management tasks assigned by the project administration without any prior input by the stakeholders in establishing priorities. In particular, although women bear a disproportionate share in the responsibilities of "the green elements" of family welfare, they are the least consulted in urban forestry projects (IDB 1997).

Quite commonly national and international priorities do not coincide with local priorities. Urban forestry projects that did not take the priorities and perceptions of local value into account often failed. In the past, top-down approaches to urban forestry programmes, as in China, have prevailed throughout the region, although this seems to be changing greatly in recent years.

A study in Bangalore showed a distinct preference of trees by social groups, e.g. the westernised, upper-class localities highly preferred exotic ornamental trees while the less affluent localities with a stronger element of indigenous cultures had an overwhelming preference for traditional trees (Gadgil & Parthasarathy 1977). The traditional preferences have been totally overlooked in planning urban forests. People who have grown up in a violent inner-city neighbourhood also have different expectations of green space.18 Limited Integration of Urban Forestry in Urban Planning and Development

The challenge in poorer countries is to make trees compatible and functional under the pressure of rapid urban growth and urban sprawl. Knowing the driving forces behind urban growth facilitates assessment of future development of urban areas and makes possible realistic planning for urban forest resource development. Given that the major challenge posed by the current rapid urbanization in poor countries of the region is to mitigate the "urbanization of poverty" there are many competing demands on tight city budgets which must be considered alongside environmental impacts on poor communities and on fragile natural resources. For example, unauthorised settlements frequently lack basic services such as potable water and sewers that may tend to take precedence over urban greening. Yet lack of attention can result in unmanageable environmental pressure on urban green space, including the cutting of trees for firewood.

It may be recognised that in future, urban trees and forests should assume an ever increasing role as a necessary component of the urban landscape. However, the challenge to city planners is (i) to anticipate the direction and magnitude of the growth; (ii) to secure resources for urban forestry for local needs (iii) to evaluate the probable uses of urban forests so that they can provide the best combination of services and goods (IDB 1997). Above all, how to convince decision-makers to allocate resources for trees and forests alongside apparently more "pressing" problems will be a continuing challenge. Lack of institutional coordination

Urban forestry is by definition an integrated discipline that requires a high level of institutional capability to plan, plant, and care for and renovate urban forests. Lack of coordination between national, provincial and local levels can jeopardise urban greening. Comprehensive management of urban forest is handicapped by fragmentation of government agencies, e.g. in Bangkok (Pleumarom 1988). The City of Manila has two offices in charge of trees and associated vegetation: the Parks Development Office and the Parks and Recreation Bureau; They respectively handle development and maintenance (Palijon 1997). In Apia, Samoa, there is no coherent tree greening strategy, mainly because the city is an agglomerate of autonomous districts, each governed by a local chief (Buddingh 1998).

Local governments carry out most urban forestry programmes in the region. Many municipalities do not coordinate with local and/or community organizations that could assist them in managing the urban forest. Lack of well-organised local groups to participate or the lack of strong administrative or managerial skills among existing groups is another constraint.

Poor coordination among disciplines is also a problem: for example, the staff of most of the greening offices in Metro Manila are civil engineers. Whenever there are foresters, agriculturists and botanists, their roles are only secondary or on a consultancy basis (Palijon 1997).

9 Also called Park Recreation and Administration, Park & Landscape Management Office; Natural Resource Department, Urban Greening Office, Regreening Office, Parks Development, Department of Environmental Services, etc.

10 Various departments execute the actual work such as the road authorities (along roads), water boards and environmental authorities (along watercourses), relevant government departments in the case of tree planting around buildings, etc.

11 These can be ideally suited for avenue trees, examples being some temple trees in India - Ficus glomerata, Ficus infectoria, Terminalia ariuna, Melia azedarach, and Bassia latifolia.

12 See Kengen 1997

13 Results of such analysis usually show that small urban parks in the vicinity of residential areas are economically more attractive than are larger parks further away.

14 For instance, at present ADB has no forestry and agroforestry projects which involve urban forestry (Kenneth Macdicken 1997); also the European Commission has not a single urban forestry project in their budget line on tropical forestry (Roby 1998). CIFOR has no programme to work on any aspects of Urban Forestry (Byron 1997); urban forestry was not on the work programme of the IPF, and is not on that of the IFF (Intergovernmental Forum on Forests) which is the follow-up to the IPF (Michaelsen 1997). ICRAF is not engaged in work related to urban forestry. The major research and development thrusts in Southeast Asia are to develop alternatives to slash and burn, and to help rehabilitate degraded lands, through improved agroforestry systems. Thus, ICRAF are focusing on the rural smallholder sector, particularly those living in the more remote parts of Asian watersheds (Garrity 1998).

15 For example, UNDP 1986, People Feeding Program IDRC 1996.

16 A historical milestone event was the Seminar on Urban Greening in Latin America and the Caribbean, Dec. 1996, cosponsored by the IDB, where more than 300 professionals from 23 countries participated (IDB 1997).

17 Germeraad (1990) discussed the lessons learned for the design of open space including green areas in Arab-Muslin settlements.

18 Low-income residents in downtown Detroit showed that although residents placed a great deal of importance on the out-of-doors, the features of parks that they prefer are well-maintained areas that include built features. Citing fear of attack and the potential for crime as the main reasons, these people did not want naturalized or rugged areas in their neighbourhood as this would represent a loss of security and increase the possibility for crime (Talbot & Kaplan 1984).

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