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Creating Liveable Green Spaces

Environmental open spaces are a Metropole’s soundest investment, they pay rich dividends in greater human health, happiness, and efficiency.

They result in civic pride, build better citizens and make the city more attractive, vibrant and beautiful. Such attributes, will serve to attract tourists and be a window to the world.

Joburg, one hundred and thirty years ago was a natural grassland area with small tributies emanating from the bisecting ridges. Over this transitional of time has seen a tide of interest sweeping across what is now known as the City of Joburg, from its early development and redevelopment to now changing with the time. With all these upheavals nature and the natural environment has come under extreme pressure. Man and the environment have competed for space with little consideration for plants, animals, insects and bird life all an essential part of our living environment would bring silence to a world we know and introduce a void for future generations.

Joburg’s visual diversity has been a result of a balance between man and nature, and of recent an evolution in urbanisation whilst retaining the ecological equilibrium, protecting the natural areas and enhancing upon its rivers, its sustainability in terms of diversity and dynamism.  As a result of this, a change in perceptions has become evident and allows for a greater expression of freedom within the diversity of the natural environment allowing man and nature to live harmoniously together.

Historically the bio-diversity makeup of the Highveld “Gauteng area of Joburg” was predominantly grass species with limited indigenous trees endemic to select areas of the nature reserves and riverine’s. With the discovery of gold Johannesburg was born and over its 130 years of growth and development the City of Joburg has evolved as a city within a park.

With the new dispensation and convergence of the surrounding municipal boundaries of the City of Joburg, a challenge to our ingenuity to bring together what was once united by nature and now divided by man has become a key focus.

Urban areas are largely man-made and achieve maximum benefit from open spaces. Urban areas must offer an informal and natural environment complemented by leisure and recreational facilities.

Sensitive natural areas often contain valuable fauna and flora, communities, marshlands, rivers and other natural features.  Such areas must be conserved for their ecological environmental sensitivity and heritage value in the first instance and secondly for their open space implications and usage.

Whilst Joburg is well known as being one of the largest man made urban forests in the world, it has only been since the inception of Joburg City Parks in 2001 that a more concerted effort in bridging the green divide, developing green ethos and educating the community on environmental issues which has vast strides in placing a green footprint, a lasting legacy and converting a strategy into reality which has become an environment which encompasses nature, bio-diversity and man. In 2013 Joburg City Parks merged with the Joburg Zoo to broaden its portfolio in order to ensure that its environmental conservation function is carried out with the preservation and management of biodiversity through direct conservation, education, research and recreation. The merger is a result of the institutional review process of the City of Joburg. The merger led to a name change which is now called Joburg City Parks and Zoo.

The street environment of Joburg has in excess of approximately 3,6 million trees and although care and maintenance of trees in urban places is a costly task, the value in returned benefits is so great that our urban forests, trees and woodlands in and around Joburg, have a vital role in promoting sustainable communities. They can provide numerous environmental, economic and social benefits, contributing enormously to the health and welfare of everyone who lives and works in the urban environment.

Trees offer a major contribution to urban biodiversity, many indigenous species having the greatest value. Other than a habitat for bird species trees can also be used to help regulate urban microclimates and ameliorate the adverse effects of weather. They provide shade on hot summer days, cool the air and substantially reduce wind speeds, creating a more pleasant urban environment.

The sheltering and shading effect of trees helps reduce the heating and air conditioning costs of buildings. This can save as much as 10% of annual energy consumption, and cut down the air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels and particulates.

The canopy of the urban forest plays a major role in moderating rainstorm impact and lessening the likelihood of flash floods. The cooling effect of the canopy reduces wear and degradation of the road surfaces. The City of Joburg’s tree planting plan a relies on environmental education to inform and educate communities on the importance of trees within the environment in order to address global warming. Environmental education in schools aims to stimulate schools to implement environmental projects. Environmental education fosters social responsibility that teaches adults and children valuable environmental ethics, aesthetic appreciation, consequences of actions and bio-diversity.

People are attracted to live, work and invest in green surroundings. Therefore, protecting and expanding our urban forests, particularly in areas of regeneration which is very cost effective way of underpinning local and regional economy and engaging with local communities through the Expanded Public Works Programme.

Parks are for people, Joburg City Parks and Zoo offers a unique experience within its environmental diversity from the Botanical Garden, Nature Reserves, Bird Sanctuaries, Environmental Education Centres, Parks, Health Parks, Sports Areas and Passive Leisure Parks just to mention a few.

Parks, Cemeteries, Conservation Areas, Street Trees, Nature Reserves, the Joburg Zoo and Urban Agriculture are all part of the eco system that adds value to life, history, our heritage, well-being of society and the environment. Urban greening is an integrated approach to the planting, caring and management of all vegetation in cities, towns, townships and informal settlements and in urban and peri-urban areas.  Joburg City Parks and Zoo recognizes the importance of urban environments which contributes to the well-being which directed to the formulation of a greening strategy to address concerns about the greening of the City of Johannesburg.

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