Nurturing health: Green spaces in urban Bangladesh

Abu Sufian

Green spaces in urban areas are important for a multitude of reasons. They help alleviate high temperatures, pollution, and flooding, and also provide mental and physical health

benefits to residents. Green spaces in cities are defined as any vegetated sections of land, such as mini forests, grasslands, parks, water bodies, or green trails. These urban green

spaces are crucial in enhancing life expectancy, well-being, health, and overall development of urban population segments, and they contribute to improved health status and lifestyles.

They improve the environmental and climatological quality of a city, supporting urban microclimate and social well-being, which are considered the utmost important factors in

shaping the health of urban residents. They are also regarded as vital for improving people’s physical and psychological well-being, as well as for keeping the city cool and combating air pollution.

Urban green spaces play a fundamental role in creating a healthier environment for all.

Greeneries in urban landscapes provide scopes for maintaining the balance between good environmental conditions, infrastructure development, and social sustainability in cities.

With rapid urbanization occurring in Bangladesh along with other developing countries worldwide, green urban planning has been getting attention recently as its importance is

being appreciated. It has become a topic of interest in research, economy, and urban planning in Bangladesh.

Among the urban areas of Bangladesh, Dhaka is one of the world’s fastest-growing megacities. The degradation of green spaces and changes in land use and land cover

(LULC) are primarily driven by high population density and fast infrastructure development. According to the studies, only 8.5% of the land in Dhaka has tree cover, compared to the

minimum requirement of 20% green landscape for a healthy city. Besides Dhaka, Chittagong is also alarmingly losing a considerable amount of green area over other urban areas of the country.

Rapid urban expansion, mass migration, unplanned urban residency and transportation, industrial pollution, and many other factors in the cities have been affecting the unplanned

urbanization process. And it is resulting in the fragmentation and diminution of natural spaces and, ultimately, driving environmental degradation. As Bangladesh continues its

rapid urbanization, the importance of green spaces in urban areas across the country should not be overlooked.

Bangladesh’s urban areas, particularly cities like Dhaka and Chittagong, face significant

challenges regarding air pollution. The concentration of vehicles, industrial activities, human movement, daily life activities of urban life, and construction projects contributes to

poor air quality. Green spaces act as natural air purifiers, absorbing pollutants and providing fresh air for residents, reducing the risks for airborne diseases and infections for

all population groups.

Asphalt, concrete, and other heat-absorbing materials prevalent in urban environments contribute to the formation of urban heat islands. These areas experience higher

temperatures than their rural counterparts, leading to discomfort and health issues for residents. Green spaces act as natural coolants, reducing surface temperatures and

providing a respite from the scorching heat. This reduces the chances of adverse health impacts like strokes, CVDs, neurological disorders, etc.

Amidst the busy urban life, green spaces offer a refuge for physical exercise and relaxation. Parks provide a venue for recreational activities, such as jogging, yoga, and picnics,

fostering a healthier and more active lifestyle. Moreover, exposure to nature has multidimensional links to mental health benefits, reducing stress and promoting a sense of

well-being to the urban dwellers of Bangladesh.

Because urban greenery is a hotspot for the physical activities for people of all ages, it allows children to play while also enhancing their cerebral development, and it allows adults to get away from their hectic daily routines to enjoy the fresh air of nature.

Green spaces in urban areas of Bangladesh serve as havens for biodiversity. Trees and plants provide habitats for various species of birds, insects, and small animals. Preserving

these spaces becomes crucial for maintaining urban ecosystems and supporting the delicate balance of biodiversity. Initiatives to protect and expand green spaces contribute

not only to the aesthetic appeal of cities, but also to the sustainability of urban environments, the health status of urban populations, etc.

In conclusion, by prioritizing the integration and preservation of green spaces, we can build urban environments that not only meet the needs of the present, but also ensure a

harmonious and sustainable future for generations to come. Government authorities, urban planners, and citizens alike must recognize the pivotal role that these areas play in creating healthier, more sustainable, and livable cities.

It is a major step toward realizing Sustainable Development Goal 11, which aims to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable — targeted to be achieved by 2030.

Furthermore, green spaces in urban areas maintain ecological and environmental sustainability, including biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration. Understanding

the factors affecting the carbon sequestration efficiency of urban green spaces is crucial for sustainable urban planning.

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