GREEN INFRASTRUCTURES! A MUST HAVE…
Green Infrastructure is a term that has been in the know for a period of time. Sometimes, it is used interchangeably with Blue-green Infrastructure. While it may be less popular than other infrastructures represented in government funding and budgets like social and physical infrastructures, it doesn’t make it any less important.
As this might have become an issue tossed to the side in Nigeria, it is necessary to know the importance of green infrastructures and how it contributes to the development of the society, especially in urban areas.
Green infrastructure is a natural approach to pre-empting and handling environmental challenges before and when they crop up. Basically, it is an approach that works hand in hand with nature to forestall problems that may arise from continued decline in climatic and environmental conditions and when/if such problems become reality, to effectively handle them.
Green infrastructure involves planting trees in houses and parks, planting flowers, employing the use of green walls and roofs, even urban drainage systems can be regarded as green infrastructure etc.
In Nigeria most especially, the importance of green infrastructure has been overlooked and undermined. But, if there’s any place where this should be of immense importance, it’s in Nigeria, most especially in the urban areas. It is very important to comb the benefits of green infrastructure to the society at large.
When you consider the high level of pollution in most urban areas and the mass of water that has been filled in many beaches in Lagos in order to create spaces for houses, you realize that unless green infrastructure begins to gain the relevance it deserves, most parts of the nation may just be disasters waiting to happen, climatically and as far as environmental issues are concerned.
There are many approaches to green infrastructure and what it entails. Here are few enumerations to the approach to green infrastructure and how they contribute to the environmental stability of the area.
- Tree planting
- Flower planting
- Green streets
- Green roofs/walls
This part of green infrastructure has been popularized. For a while, it was taken serious in Nigeria with the recruitment of forest guards to prevent illegal cutting-down of trees. Along the line, the tenacity dropped and it has become common sight today to see trailers moving around with large logs of wood without permit.
To effectively embrace the green infrastructure initiative, there is the need to plant trees, not just in the forest this time, but in houses as well. Trees can also be planted in parks and on road sides, as they can provide shade when the sun is out, thereby reducing the money spent in erecting shades and coverings. In homes, having trees will not only provide shade from the sun; it can also serve as a means of food and wind-breaker in case of whirlwinds and dangerous climatic problems.
Planting flowers is another vital approach to green infrastructure. Flowers beautify any place they are, be it home or park. At home, flowers are a delight. They bring out the beauty of the home and give off scents that make the air breathable. In parks, they serve the purpose of sight-seeing, as the beauty draws attention of people.
Raining seasons in most urban areas always emphasize the need for green infrastructure. Green streets are identified as a major method of storm water management. They are designed on streets to capture rain water at its source and divert it away from roads. This helps the water absorb slowly into the ground, where it is filtered by the soil and help nourish the ground and feed plants. Currently in Lagos and many other urban areas, the news continue to cover issues of flooding and this has always been a major national issue. Green streets ensure that adequate preparations are made to prevent flooding during rainy seasons.
Since green infrastructure is not just about plants, having fishponds is also healthy. For one, it reduces the fishing in bigger rivers where more often than not, pollution of the water occurs. In most cases, those who fish in rivers have been known to liter the water or even in extreme cases, use chemicals to kill the fishes. These kinds of pollution will not only render the water undrinkable, it will also affect the health of whoever drinks it, thereby creating problems that could have been avoided in the first place.
Asides this, having fishponds gives first hand access to fresh fishes. Some of the fishes caught in rivers are not sold to consumers immediately. They pass through different processes that may involve using certain chemicals to preserve the fish which may in turn cause problems for the consumer.
Green roofs and walls basically serve as visual representation of the green infrastructure method. It involves maintaining partial or complete vegetation on roofs and walls. They can have additional layers like the drainage and irrigation systems. Researchers are working on proving that using green roofs and green walls have more environmental benefits and beautify better than employing traditional walls and roofs.
- We help improve air quality by building gardens in schools.
- We promote good and healthy eating habits among students in schools by building vegetable gardens.
- We help students connect better with nature.
- Gardens, trees, and fish ponds serves as outdoor avenues for recreation within the school.
- We beautify the schools by planting trees that are beneficial and helps in academic performance.
- Some students find job/skill opportunities when connecting with nature. For example; garden tour guide, gardeners, and conservationists.
Benefits of Green Infrastructure
- Improved air quality: All human beings need air to survive. While we can survive a few days without food, without air or good quality air, we die faster. Plants and flowers are the corner stone to the air we breathe and they help in reducing the hazard of bad air which can be ingenious to the human health.
- Climate Change Mitigation: Green spaces and vegetation can counter rising temperatures and the heat island effect experienced in urban environments. Trees also provide shade and cool the air through evaporation of water.
- Flood reduction: Trees planted along river banks can reduce water run-offs, helps absorb excess water, which reduces its entry into the river system.
- Beautification: Flowers beautify houses and parks. When trees and flowers are planted at roadsides and houses, the landscape looks better than when it’s just an empty space.
- Good and healthy eating habit: Planting trees and maintaining fish ponds in houses can improve the quality of food we eat, as we are often left with varieties of healthy meals to pick from. That way, everything eaten is fresh, whether it’s fishes or vegetables.
- Recreation: Trees in houses can provide children with a natural playground while gardens can serve as a source of sight-seeing.
- Better connection with nature: Some trees attract birds and some flowers attract flies that pollinate them. The presence of birds and green trees can always be a welcome and healthy distraction from the howling sound of machines and equipment’s that the ears have been subjected to outside and can calm the nerves. It helps us admire and connect better with nature.
- Economic growth: As with the example of diverting foods from farms and fishes from ponds, trading these items can help improve the economic situation of the country and drastically increase GDP.
- Job opportunities: In all these, whether you hire someone to maintain the flowers, to install green roofs and walls, to take care of fishponds, you are sure to be providing employment. This reduces the number of unemployed people and by implication, reduces crime rates in the country.
Finally, while it is important to focus on social and physical infrastructures and to dedicate huge chunks of the budget to them, green infrastructure should no longer be ignored. It does not only improve healthy living, it ensures citizen happiness, creates jobs, and prevents – in the long run – environmental disasters.
Countries should adopt the importance of green infrastructure into National Strategic Planning if we must improve green spaces and green infrastructures in the country.
FABE International Foundation is a not-for-profit environmental health organization passionate about the establishment and improvement of an eco-conscious generation committed and dedicated to the restoration, conservation, environmental sustainability, and protection of the environment. Our mission is to promote environmental sustainability, by engaging our youths and women in the identification, exploration, and facilitation of sustainable eco-solutions to problems caused by the impacts of climate change, affecting the health and environment of people and biodiversity in Nigeria through advocacy, education, youth development, women empowerment, community engagement and participation.