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The Importance of Green spaces in Zambia's growing urban areas

Updated: Mar 14

Green spaces refer to areas within cities that are covered with vegetation, such as parks, gardens, urban forests, and green roofs and play an essential role in mitigating the effects of climate change.

Urban street lined with potted plants
Cairo Road in Lusaka. Photo credit David Brown

Greenspaces are important for many reasons, including:

Environmental benefits of green spaces:

Green spaces, such as parks, gardens, and urban forests, are effective in filtering pollutants from the air through a process called phytoremediation. This process involves plants absorbing pollutants through their leaves, stems, and roots, breaking them down into less harmful substances, and storing them in their tissues or soil.

As Zambia's towns continue to expand and develop, the loss of our tree cover and even short vegetation is becoming increasingly prevalent, leading to elevated temperatures. Since it takes several years for a tree to mature to a size that provides sufficient shade, this has become a major concern. In certain areas of Lusaka, dust covers everything due to the absence of vegetation, resulting in an inability to filter dust or prevent soil erosion.

Green spaces, such as parks, gardens, and green roofs, can reduce water runoff in urban areas by increasing the amount of water that is absorbed into the ground. This is important because urban areas typically have a high proportion of impervious surfaces, such as roads and buildings, which prevent water from being absorbed into the ground. When it rains, water runs off these surfaces and into storm water drains, which can lead to flooding, erosion, and pollution of waterways. Lusaka for example, experiences extreme floods in many areas causing destruction to property.

Urbanization can have a negative impact on biodiversity by reducing the amount of natural habitat available for species to live in, but green spaces can help to offset this by providing artificial habitats for a range of plants and animals in urban areas.

Biodiversity provides essential ecosystem services, such as air and water purification, nutrient cycling, and pollination. These services are critical for maintaining a healthy environment and supporting human well-being.

A road lined with jacaranda trees
There are several Jacaranda lined avenues like this one, in Lusaka. Photo credit: David Brown

Health benefits of green spaces:

Exposure to green spaces has been linked to a variety of physical and mental health benefits. Being in nature can reduce stress, improve mood, and lower the risk of depression and anxiety. Exposure to nature can promote relaxation and reduce mental fatigue, leading to improved cognitive function and productivity.

Green spaces provide opportunities for physical activity such as walking, jogging, and cycling, which can help to improve cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and overall fitness. Physical activity in green spaces has also been linked to reduced rates of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions.

A Lusaka street on a quiet day in the grass
A Lusaka street on a quiet day. Photo Credit: Diane Vos

Social benefits of public greenspaces:

Green spaces can provide a sense of community and bring people together. They can serve as gathering places for events and activities, and provide opportunities for social interaction and recreation.

A popular picnic spot within the city is the lawn near the University of Zambia lake. It may not be an official public park but it remains a beautiful green space where students and the public alike gather to socialise. Munda Wanga Park in Chilanga has lawns and gardens which make it a popular recreational spot in Lusaka.

An open field in Lilayi, Lusaka
An open field in Lilayi, Lusaka

Economic benefits of community green spaces:

Properties located near green spaces tend to have higher property values than those that are not. Green spaces can improve the aesthetic appeal of an area, provide a sense of open space, and enhance the overall desirability of a neighbourhood, leading to higher property values. Think of Kabulonga and other older high property value neighbourhoods in Lusaka and the quantity of mature trees they have both inside and outside the property lines

Green spaces can attract tourists and visitors, which can generate economic activity for local businesses and contribute to the local economy. Parks, gardens, and other green spaces can also provide opportunities for recreational activities such as sports, festivals, and concerts, which can attract visitors and generate revenue.

City View
City View

Most towns in Zambia lack public parks or areas where residents can enjoy nature within the city limits. Therefore, as a community, it is crucial that we contemplate strategies for transforming open spaces into attractive gardens or recreational facilities.

We are interested in compiling a directory of public parks in Zambia, and we invite you to contribute to the conversation by sharing information on parks in your town in the comments section.

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