URBAN parks have always been considered to be an integral part of any city to improve the living conditions of the people both physically and socially. People come to them for recreation, social gathering, and passive enjoyment. They act as a space for interaction between different diversities and make a healthy urban environment. They help to enhance the image of a city, and improve the quality of urban life. According to Springgate (2001), parks are peaceful, tranquil, beautiful spaces to which people are intrinsically attracted.
Europeans introduced the concept of the urban park to Asia during the colonization period in the late 19th century. However, during colonization, landscapes were managed and shaped according to the needs of the colonial governments. They managed land to maximize their benefits. In the case of open spaces in the city, colonial officers built urban parks to cater to the recreation and leisure needs of their families, their citizens, and local affluent people, such as royal family members. In other words, colonial governments did not seek to develop public parks, but rather private sanctuaries. After independence, the need for urban parks became greater as their cities expanded and urban population rapidly grew & people needed better urban spaces for health and recreation (Yuen, 1995).
In order to have a better city environment and quality of life it is very important to have equal & just access of urban parks throughout the city. Therefore it is important to understand the parameters leading to a justified park distribution. Every person in the city should have their benefits. Thus to ensure proper use of parks- prevent underuse & overuse, and to get the most out of urban parks, better mixing of diversities, healthier urban environments, it is very important that the parks are located in places where they are needed the most. Thus it is necessary to study the spatial distribution of parks in the city.
The study in this paper is based on the spatial distribution of urban parks that is, how they are geographically distributed across the urban landscape and what are, or should be, the deciding factors for their location. Emily Talen, in her research work (The Spatial Logic of Parks, 2010), tries to find logic for a better understanding of park distribution based on three spatial goals: proximity, diversity and social need. This paper takes this study further taking case studies from Bhopal and also identified if there are any other factors that conforms spatial logic to the spatial distribution of parks.
Research on parks, specially ‘green public open spaces’, has been done in multiple directions throughout the years. While Pincetl & Gearin, 2005 focussed on “symbiotic economic, ecological and social benefits”, Banerjee, 2001 talked about privatization of parks; Whyte’s studied about the social usage and Low gave the idea of opening parks to cultural diversities. While notions of ‘space’ and ‘access’ have been regularly discussed among urban designers but it is equally important to examine the spatial context of urban civic spaces in a way that would empirically inform how parks are distributed relative to other urban characteristics. Both Mumford and Jacobs argued that parks should be situated in their surrounding social context. The spatial relationships between park, population and land use matter significantly. Therefore it is very important to study the distribution of parks in the urban fabric as it directly related to the accessibility and use of the park and thus the making a healthy city environment.
Despite the predominate interest in parks as singular public spaces, several research streams can be drawn from to elicit specific normative perspectives about park distribution. Emily Talen has identified three interrelated normative theories about the spatial pattern of parks: proximity, diversity and social need.
There have been several positive and negative effects of having a park nearby. Positive benefits include better accessibility which, in turn, provides improved quality of life outcomes, emotional benefits and educational achievement (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989; Chiesura, 2004; Kuo & Faber Taylor, 2004). Better proximities (a walkable distance) between where people live and work to parks and open spaces means a well-distributed parks system which can also help achieve urban sustainability goals. A well-distributed park system also means that it should benefit as many social groups as possible. Among the negative effects the most important is the effect on property values (Crompton, 2001). It has been found in research that with better proximity to parks the property value increases in general. One study found that apartment prices increased if they were closer to parks, but single-family detached homes did not (Dehring & Dunse, 2006). This implies that public parks can substitute for private open space for apartment dwellers, but not for owners of single-family detached homes, who are likely to have their own private outdoor space.
Jane Jacobs in her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961, said-
“The more successfully a city mingles everyday diversity of uses and users in its everyday streets, the more successfully, casually (and economically) its people thereby enliven and support well-located parks that can thus give back grace and delight to their neighborhoods instead of vacuity.”
In a similar vein, Gold (1972) argued that the non-use of neighbourhood parks was a significant, overlooked problem, that ‘more’ was not always ‘better’, and that park usage might be a function of the surrounding social and land use complexity of a neighbourhood. Thus it is very important to have an optimum number of parks surrounded by a wide diversity of population and use in order to generate mutual support and ‘complex pools of use’ that inhabit parks at different times of the day. At the same time, it is also important to avoid under-use of parks which, in turn, may lead to crime and other illegal activities.
The achievement of equitable spatial allocation of public resources or social justice in the distribution of public resources like parks is a goal in which spatial distribution matters significantly (Talen, 1997, 1998). The distribution of public benefits is often made according to need, termed ‘compensatory’ equity by Crompton & Wicks (1988). If parks were distributed according to social need, they would be located in areas with higher density as higher density housing usually has less private outdoor space per unit, and therefore greater need for park space (Talen, 2010). Areas with greater social needs can be measured by income level. Low-income groups have shown higher evidence of health problems and also are found to be more involved in illegal and criminal activities (Sallis & Glanz, 2006). Having believed that better access to parks can improve the quality of life in a neighbourhood, the areas with low-income group are in more need to have parks nearby.
Other Factors: In another study done by Zhou Y1, Shi TM, Hu YM, Gao C, Liu M, Song LQ to select location for the urban parks within the Third Ring of Shenyang, China, four relatively independent objective factors were considered- population density level, air pollution level, urban heat island effect level, and urban land use pattern. In their study out of the four factors, the level of air pollution was found to be the most important factor in deciding the location of the green spaces. While Haiwei Yin; Yongjun Song; Fanhua Kong; Yi Qi in their study concluded that it is the Euclidian (straight-line) distance between residence and the nearest urban park which has been found more accurate which governs the accessibility of the parks in Qingdao City, China.
Spatial Distribution of Parks in Bhopal:
Bhopal, the city capital of Madhya Pradesh, is the 16th largest city in India and 134th largest city in the world. As per the 2011 census it has a population of 3,454,678 with an average density of 2,575/km2.
The city is basically divided into two parts – old Bhopal and new Bhopal. Bhopal is known as the City of Lakes for its various natural as well as artificial lakes and is also one of the greenest cities in India. According to current master plan, the municipality covers 697 square kilometres. It has network of lakes, which for a water system collectively known as the Bhoj Wetland.
The city has uneven elevation and has small hills within its boundaries. According to M N Buch, Bhopal has about 30,000 acres of green cover that affects its microclimate; a buffer zone of huge trees bring down city’s temperature by about 5 degree Celsius. There are also a large number of urban parks and green open spaces distributed in the city.
Under the objective of a spatial distribution based on maximizing proximity, parks would be spatially distributed to allow as many people as possible to have walking access to a nearby park. Factoring in the related goal of urban sustainability, parks would be located where people live, not in remote locations that would require driving. Figure-2 shows all the major parks of Bhopal and 5 minutes & 10 minutes walking distance from the centre of the parks which is 400m & 800m respectively. It can be seen that towards the southern side of the city which consists of the new city, urban parks are, in general, located within the 5 minute or 10 minute walking distance. While in the northern side which is the old city is having both fewer numbers of parks as well as not located within a walking distance. Thus people in New Bhopal are having a better proximity to parks than those living in Old Bhopal.
A second principle of spatial distribution entails locating parks in diverse urban places. This could be measured in terms of either social diversity or land use diversity. Land use diversity can be assessed by looking at numbers of ‘active’ land uses—multi-family housing, banks, hotels, offices, schools, restaurants, bars, stores—any use that is likely to have users coming and going for different reasons and for different times of day. As we can see in the land use of areas around the parks Bhopal 2005 (Figure-3), the old area of the city is much more diversity of land uses than the new area which is mostly residential and institutional. The old area has mixed use and is more active for most of the time of the day and hence it is more appropriate to have better parks there.
As mentioned earlier, usually the areas with higher density housing are the areas with higher social need for urban parks. The firure-4 shows the density of Bhopal. As we can see there is a high concentration of dwelling in the old areas of Bhopal, they are highly dense and hence they are in more need of urban parks which is not present there.
As seen from the maps, while more number of parks is distributed in New Bhopal than Old Bhopal having better proximity to the residents, they are having proximity to less diversity as the land-use of New Bhopal is comparatively less mixed-used than Old Bhopal. At the same time the density of Old Bhopal is much higher than New Bhopal which means the old area is in more need of green open spaces than the new areas. Thus there should have been more parks in the Old Bhopal area than that is present there. On the other hand, it can be said that there is an excessive number of parks in new area of Bhopal especially in the Lower Lake area, which is leading to the underuse of the urban parks.
The parks in lower lake are in close proximity to each other which leads to less density in the southern side of the lake and thus there is underuse of the parks. As seen in figure-5 other than Kamla Park and Neelam Parks the rest of the parks in the lower lake periphery are used very less.
Another reason for this underuse is due to the lack of accessibility of the parks. The northern side which is the old area is having higher density but with no public parks present there. If we study the building use plan of the area (Figure-6), the area along Dandi Park & Killol Park is largely residential, while the stretch along Aquarium Park, Karishma Park & Rahat Park is largely institutional which gets deserted after the working hours and thus adds to the underuse of the parks. Kamla Park and Neelam Park are city level parks which are the reason why these parks are have more user intensity.
Thus there is a need to improve the spatial distribution of parks in Bhopal. It would obviously be impossible to physically rearrange parks, population and land use in a way that would conform to one or more spatial principles.
The idea that parks can be “dispirited city vacuums . . . eaten around with decay, little used, unloved” (Jacobs, 1961, p. 90) is a phenomenon that can be looked at as a problem of spatial logic. The poor relationship between density, land use, social need and location plays out in an especially stark way in the areas of New Bhopal as well as Old Bhopal. Although the entire city has about 30,000 acres of green cover, which seem to be a significant figure for a city of 285 sq.kms of municipal area, but the spatial study of parks shows that majority of these parks are located in the new city whereas it is the old area which is in more need of green open areas due to the high density of dwellings. While it may be impossible to transform cities into places with optimal spatial logic about the proper relationship between people, parks and development, it may not be unreasonable to channel support toward the establishment of a better spatial logic over time. Whether based on proximity, diversity or social need, an improved spatial logic is essentially about making sure that valued public resources like parks are located in places where they are needed most.
[themify_box style=”gray” ]
- Emily Talen, “The Spatial Logic of Parks”, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA.
- Suhardi Maulan “Seremban Urban Park, Malaysia: a Preference Study”, Thesis, Master of Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, 2002
- Zhou Y1, Shi TM, Hu YM, Gao C, Liu M, Song LQ, “Location selection for Shenyang urban parks based on GIS and multi-objective location allocation model”
- Haiwei Yin; Yongjun Song; Fanhua Kong; Yi Qi, “Measuring spatial accessibility of urban parks: a case study of Qingdao City, China” 2007
- Kyushik Oh, Seunghyun Jeong, “Assessing the spatial distribution of urban parks using GIS” 2007
- Bryan Smale, Jeff McLaren, “An Analysis of Spatial Equity in the Provision of Urban Park Opportunities” University of Waterloo.
- “Bhopal can make it to green list” The Times of India, 22 Apr 2014.
- Urban Design Studio work, 2013 by 1-Sem, MUD, School of Planning & Architecture, Bhopal