by Khatib Alam and Zahid Mahmood.
The development of local parks can have a great impact on community life – not only through the end product, but also through community participation in designing and constructing them. It can have a positive impact on the community in many ways – on social life, the economy, and health – as a park development project in Pakistan shows.
Over 50 slum areas and 100 katchi abadis (squatter settlements) exist in Faisalabad, a city in Pakistan. These areas have few services such as primary healthcare, water, sanitation, education or recreation. The Faisalabad Area Upgrading Project (FAUP) works in partnership with communities to upgrade the settlements, with the main aim of developing a healthy environment. One of the projects involved converting open spaces within the settlements into beautiful parks.
Parks seem like a low priority compared with water, sanitation, education and healthcare. These other, higher priority needs were addressed in other projects under the FAUP, but it is interesting that the communities created a demand for parks. They wanted somewhere where parents could relax and their children could play safely. They were able to imagine what the end product could look like, which encouraged them to take part 16 in the project. The development of parks proves to be a cost-effective way of improving the social, economic and health environments of slum areas.
Process and challenges
The community contributed half the cost of the project, the remainder being externally funded. The communities participated at every stage of the project through Project Implementation Committees, which were responsible for monitoring park development activities. Communities were involved in activities such as vegetation and rubbish removal, land levelling and planting trees, shrubs and grasses. They built boundary walls or fences to protect the parks from trespassers and entry of wastewater from the streets. They also made footpaths between the flowerbeds and designed and constructed their own fountains.
One of the greatest challenges in the project was from people in the community who grazed their buffaloes on the land that was to be converted into parks. The communities themselves developed a method of conflict management through creation and awareness workshops, and eventually most people could see the benefits of the new parks.
Impact of the project
The project had a number of positive impacts:
- Social There was greater social integration, particularly of women; the parks provided a good place for people to meet; people were happier and had pride in their new parks.
- Economic Business activity increased; and land and property prices in the area around the parks rose.
- Health Primary healthcare improved, people were able to get exercise and pollution levels fell.
Many factors contributed to the success of this project, including gender sensitivity, community strength, external facilitation and technical advice, and an organised community forum so that the community could organise themselves and take effective action.
Khatib Alam is the Project Co-ordinator and Zahid Mahmood is FAUP’s Environmental Development Officer. The FAUP project was co-funded by the Government of Pakistan and DFID. Their address is: Faisalabad Development Authority – FAUP Project, Gulistan Colony #2, Millat Road, Faisalabad, Pakistan.