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Green spaces to boost climate resilience in Faridpur and Sialkot

April 2021

Green spaces in cities contribute to improving the urban environment, performing important services that benefit communities.

Well-planned use of green infrastructure can be a cost-effective way to provide important services such as flood protection, improvements in air quality, and reduce extreme heat. The strategic use of trees, green and blue spaces and crops, can also contribute to more sustainable,  healthier urban ecosystems. Nature-based Solutions (NbS) have been considered as key infrastructure options for implementation through Community-Led Projects (CLP) across project sites in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, and the Philippines, as part of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) ‘RETA 9329: Promoting Urban Climate Change Resilience in Selected Asian Cities - Development of Pilot Activities and Project Development Support’ project. The project is financed by the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) and implemented by Oxfam Great Britain with local partners.

Through a participatory planning approach, local stakeholders in Ward No. 9 of the Bangladeshi city of Faridpur, and of the Mubarak Pura district of Sialkot in Pakistan, selected the construction of green parks as the CLP to build climate resilience in their communities. Participants chose a nature-based approach to reduce the impact of climate hazards on the most vulnerable groups in their communities. The decisions were based not only on environmental grounds, but also because the NbS could deliver the desired socio-economic impacts.

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Typical residential houses in Ward No. 9

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A green approach to waterlogging and other hazards

In Faridpur, community members identified waterlogging as one of their priority hazards. Faridpur has experienced several natural disasters in recent years, including severe flooding, waterlogging, tornadoes,  cyclones, and riverbank erosion . The  Padma  River  floodplain  around  the municipality is  prone  to  deep  seasonal  overflows. Exacerbated by drainage congestion, during the rainy season floodwaters inundate residential properties, roads, and open spaces.

Stagnant  flooding  takes  days  to  recede. In 2016, UCCRTF through TA 8913 supported the conduct of a Rapid Urban Climate Change Assessment (RUCCA) which revealed that waterlogging in the city was due to drainage congestion cause by improper solid waste management. This has caused many environmental and social issues for the residents such as crop damage due to excessive ground moisture, mosquito infestation, water contamination, and health issues. People in the ward are vulnerable to these impacts suffering from low levels of employment, malnutrition, illnesses, and poverty. Women, young people, informal settlers, and the elderly are considered especially vulnerable groups.

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Illegal dumping situation near a government institution in the Faridpur municipality

The proposed CLP includes three components: a community-based solid waste management, addressing the primary cause of chronic waterlogging; green park, that will provide green jobs; and a livelihood training center.

The park construction will highlight features that promote inclusivity, such as safe, green open spaces for women, girls and youth; community areas for gatherings and social events; exercise tracks for physical activities; and a place for livelihood development opportunities. The planned park, will provide at least 2,640 square meters of space, with indigenous shade, plants, and trees to promote biodiversity. Income generated by the park will be allocated for its operations and maintenance cost, creating long-term sustainable employment opportunities for local residents.

In the CLP co-creation workshop on 17 February 2021, the newly elected Faridpur municipal Mayor, Mr. Amative Bose recommended to transfer the park site to a larger site to accommodate the additional features of the park and to benefit the wider residents of the city. A community consultation will be scheduled to validate impacts of the relocation to the community members as primary stakeholders of the project. The design of the new park will be developed once the site location is confirmed.

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Proposed climate resilient park design.

Extreme heat and the need for green spaces

Mubarak Pura, was ranked by the community stakeholder group (CSG) as one of the most climate-vulnerable communities in Sialkot. The combination of extreme weather conditions, a lack of clean drinking water, high prevalence of water-borne disease, and solid waste management issues undermine the community’s resilience. The  ward  is  highly  exposed  to  climate change impacts such as heat waves, and urban flooding. Rising  temperatures are causing health problems in the city, causing heat stroke and exacerbate air pollution that cause skin and respiratory diseases within the community.

Green spaces have been shown to improve air quality and moderate extreme heat in urban environments. The  CSG identified the lack of green spaces and access to clean drinking water as major resilience issues within Mubarak Pura.

At present, the small open spaces in the community are  either  filled  with  stagnant  water  or  have  become  dumping  sites  which  foster the spread  disease .  Ward  1  in  the  Mubarak  Pura community has no green space nor any trees in the area.

The community members saw the need to build a park within the area to create a healthy environment that is safe to use for women and children. The availability of green spaces can improve public health by reducing stress, and providing a place to exercise. Vegetation also absorbs carbon from the atmosphere,  supports local biodiversity and can act as a buffer zones to combat flooding.

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The CLP site in Mubarak Pura.

Towards a greener and resilient future

The RETA 9329 project encourages active participation from poor and vulnerable communities. Active involvement with the CLPs will help to build community ownership of the green spaces. The accompanying capacity building elements on good practice for solid waste management, is also expected to improve health outcomes for the people who live in the target wards. The green park CLPs are expected to bring positive impacts not only to the environment but the livelihood and well-being of community members in Ward No. 9 and Mubarak Pura.

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The proposed Mubarak Pura park layout.