Space in the city

A cousin of mine is a heart patient. During his regular health check-ups, doctors have recommended that he go for regular morning walks in parks where one can find clean, fresh air and plenty of greenery. But in Kathmandu, we couldn’t find any suitable park. Without any alternative, my cousin walks on the dusty footpath every day early in the morning.

Increasing population, unmanaged urbanisation, an undisciplined waste management system, rapid environmental degradation and irresponsible citizens and authorities have turned Kathmandu into one of the most unattractive capital cities in the world. Every corner of Kathmandu has dust hovering in the air. And every empty space is either filled with street vendors or with piles of garbage. The adverse effects of rapid, unmanaged urbanisation have destroyed the natural beauty and the greenery of our Capital. Although there are a few public parks in the Valley, these are more like open fields rather than parks due to a lack of proper management and design, and a majority lie on the outskirts of the city—out of easy reach of a majority of the population.

Open spaces and public parks are integral parts of the layout of a city. These are not only important from an environmental aspect but they also play a vital role in human life. Public parks help maintain an individual’s physical as well as mental health. Public parks encourage people to regularly exercise, socialise as well as relax and enjoy a little piece of nature to find relief from various stresses and strains. Making these regular habits is a good way to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, asthma and various other diseases. It could even be helpful for those living with respiratory diseases and the peace of mind that can be found in a well-designed park could even help reduce the astonishing number of suicide cases in Kathmandu. Realising the importance of open places and public parks, the World Health Organization (WHO) has established a minimum criteria of 11 square metres of open green space for an individual in a city area. This signifies that, for the estimated population of Kathmandu, around 44 square kilometres of area should be allocated for parks—seven percent of the total land of the Valley. Washington DC, another highly populated capital city, has dedicated 35 percent of its total land area to public parks. Many other developed cities in the world leave about 11-15 percent of their total land area for public parks.   

Looking at this data, it is clear that Kathmandu is far behind fulfilling the criteria of becoming a developed city. Hence, the development and management of open areas and public parks in Kathmandu should be kept a high priority. Moreover, in places going through rapid urbanisation, there should be land set aside for parks before the quickly developing city takes over all the available space. Despite being a poor nation, this effort could be a significant step towards conserving and promoting a clean environment as well as a clearer mind for everyone in the city.

by:Prayash Raj Koirala, The Kathmandu Post

Sponsored Content