Planning of open spaces in urban areas crucial

Kathmandu, December 10

Open spaces in urban areas are fast shrinking so much so that a large section of the public do not have access to such spaces.

In Kathmandu and Lalitpur, only 0.48 per cent and 0.06 per cent of areas can be categorised as open spaces respectively, according to government statistics.  The situation is similar in Tarai municipalities.

According to National Urban Development Strategy published by the Ministry of Urban Development, open spaces and parks in urban areas serve three major purposes – they are the lungs of the city and provide breathing space, they improve the physical, social and psychological health of the city as they enhance not only the city’s beauty but provide spaces for social interaction and recreation and contribute to the livability of a city, and serve critical purposes of evacuation during disasters, particularly earthquakes.

“Parks and open spaces are integral components of the urban landscape and the larger the proportion of parks and open spaces the better the prospects of a city. Equitable access to open spaces by all must be the prime guiding principle in urban planning. Indeed, the form of the urban landscape must evolve from this concern,” read the strategy.

However, in Nepal the issues of open spaces in urban areas has largely remained ignored in the policy discourse as well as the practice of urban development.

In by-laws of Kathmandu Valley, community open space is reserved as an integral part of any land measuring 0.25 hectare or more for the use of the community. In terms of open spaces within the plots, the building by-laws for construction within municipalities has a provision that apartment plots need to provide 50 per cent of its total land as open space, of which 20 per cent area is for open land surface and 30 per cent for other open spaces. In residential plots, the ground coverage of the building ranges from 50 to 80 per cent depending upon the size of the plot and its location in the prescribed zones.

For institutional buildings, the ground coverage of the building ranges from 40 to 50 per cent depending upon the type of institutions. The rest shall be allocated as open space. The Planning Norms and Standards set by the Government of Nepal suggests the minimum area of designated open space to be 2.5 per cent of the sub-metro city area and five per cent of the metro city area.

In neighbouring India, Delhi has 20 per cent of its area as open space. Planned city of Chandigarh had 35 per cent and even congested Mumbai had 2.5 per cent as of 2011. In

Kathmandu, 0.48 per cent of open space is insignificant to serve the city, the ministry warned. WHO and FAO recommend a minimum availability of nine metre per person of green open space for the city dweller.

Based on the periodic plan of municipalities, in Kathmandu the availability is 0.25 metre per person and it is 4.34 metre per person in Dharan.