SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Inclusive Green Infrastructures for Urban Well-Being

Urban infrastructures can be understood as the systems through which urban services are provided. These include the ‘green infrastructure’ of urban parks, street trees, green surfaces, community gardens and urban agriculture.

In cities across Asia, green infrastructures that support the health and livelihoods of urban and peri-urban residents are being degraded and destroyed.

Green infrastructures in peri-urban areas (areas adjacent to an urban area or where urban and rural activities co-exist) are threatened when construction projects, polluting industries, waste disposal, or large-scale cash crops compete for space with small-scale agriculture, common lands or conservation areas. The green infrastructures which are disappearing, tend to be those that support the livelihoods of the peri-urban poor (especially agriculture), supply vital urban environmental services (such as groundwater recharge) and provide food to the city. They also provide a host of other health and social service benefits. They are often replaced by new urban landscapes with formalised green infrastructures of parks, landscaped grounds and street trees.

Introduction

‘Inclusive Green Infrastructures for Urban Well-Being’ project aims to contribute to the long-term well-being of diverse urban and peri-urban residents by revealing the possibilities for integrating green infrastructures into city policy and planning in China and India. Some types of green infrastructure are formally recognised and planned – such as parks, city forests, urban waterways – while others are largely ignored or considered unimportant – such as peri-urban agriculture. The researchers will gather data through the course of the project to demonstrate the multiple benefits of different types of green infrastructure and the effects of development processes on them.it will use this to open a dialogue concerning alternate urban development options that recognise and benefit from inclusive green infrastructural development. Our overarching research hypothesis is that a better understanding of green infrastructure-land-use planning interactions (coupled with a web-based tool for supporting participatory analysis and planning scenarios) will generate knowledge and mobilize people, and ultimately support the development of more inclusive configurations of green infrastructure in city-regions across Asia.

Methodology

This project represents a truly interdisciplinary effort, bringing together informatics experts in deep learning and computer modelling with those concerned with sustainable development, environmental change - poverty interactions and science policy studies; alongside in-country partners with expertise in rural and urban poverty, public health and GIS for urban planning who will work with local community groups and diverse policy stakeholders.

This project will use a range of approaches to examine the relationship between green infrastructures and multiple dimensions of well-being with an emphasis on poverty and health. This will involve:

  • Gathering data to identify how green infrastructures contribute to the well-being of different groups, and the impacts of current development strategies on them. This will be done through researchers visiting sites across the city regions and carrying out semi-structured interviews and participatory exercises with people in differing social groups, to gain their perspectives on different types of green infrastructure across their area.
  • Creating a web-based tool that supports dialogue concerning the impact of current urban planning trajectories on green infrastructures. It will incorporate information from the lived experiences and perspectives of poor and marginalised communities, alongside quantitative and qualitative data from other sources such as official statistics, academic literature and spatial datasets.
  • Selected stakeholders will also be engaged in a co-design process using the web-application to develop alternative future scenarios of green infrastructures and urban development.

Impact and Outreach

This project will directly benefit China and India by addressing a specific challenge for municipal/city region planning. The project will also contribute to achieving the SDGs around poverty reduction (SDG1) and urban sustainability (SDG11) in both countries.

The researchers hope to engage with policymakers and other stakeholders in each country, to increase participation of urban and peri-urban communities in city-region planning and policy-making processes. Increased recognition among officials, academics and activists of the needs and experiences of the peri-urban poor is critical to understanding and managing green infrastructures. The overarching aim is to promote inclusive city region planning processes that unlock the potential for green infrastructures to support the health and well-being of urban and peri-urban residents across all income groups.

Further Information

The team from the University of Sussex consists of Prof Fiona Marshall (SPRU), Dr Jonathan Dolley (SPRU), Dr Jeremy Reffin (Informatics), and Dr Novi Quadrianto (Informatics). They will be working alongside researchers in China and India, utilising their knowledge of peri-urban areas in their respective countries.

External Partners:

  • Professor Shijun Ding and colleagues Zhongnan University of Economics and Law
  • Professor Ritu Priya, Professor Ramila Bisht and colleagues Jawaharlal Nehru University