It’s been proven by quite a few studies that plants are good for our psychological development. If you green an area, the rate of crime goes down. Torture victims begin to recover when they spend time outside in a garden with flowers. So we need them, in some deep psychological sense, which I don’t suppose anybody really understands yet.
– Jane Goodall, English primatologist and anthropologist
“Health is wealth” is a popular saying, and our environment plays a big role in our health.
As time goes by, our towns and cities grow in size. More people move to work and live there.
In the rush to earn a living, we tend to overlook many other aspects of our lives and most importantly, our health.
Of course, the primary responsibility for our health and quality of life lies with us.
However, there are many ways in which our government and local authorities can improve the quality of our lives.
One such important way is to double efforts to ensure there are more accessible public open spaces and green parks.
Having green public spaces brings with it many benefits. Based on research, such spaces play an important role in the prevention and reduction of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The examples of NCDs include Alzheimer’s, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis and stroke.
So just imagine the cost savings in relation to healthcare to both the individual and government healthcare spending due to prevention and reduction of NCDs in our population.
Therefore, having access to use these open green public spaces indeed becomes one of the important aspects we need to promote in relation to the health of our citizens.
Having many such easily accessible open green public spaces around a city or town, especially in residential areas, is essential in the community as this would support people to become physically active.
The provision of these spaces will also greatly help towards addressing issues related to climate change.
Our open green public spaces and trees help to filter airborne dust, cool the surrounding air, provide shade and much more. All this results in energy savings and improved climate quality in our towns and cities.
However, it is also of importance that all our existing and future open green public spaces are made user-friendly. There must be proper facilities and good access for the disabled and senior citizens as well.
In addition to this, they must be designed with the safety and security of the users in mind. This would encourage more people to utilise them.
At this point, I would just like to repeat the oft-made statement made by many, that we in Malaysia are sometimes good at building things but terrible in maintaining them. This applies to many of our parks and beaches. We currently have open spaces which are badly in need of maintenance.
Priority should be given to maintenance, not only because the park becomes an eyesore, but also to ensure the safety of the users. A well-maintained park and beach also bring other fringe benefits, as it can attract tourism and help the local economy.
There are many players on the scene that can help towards the development of more open green public spaces.
Government agencies are of course one of the critical organisations that are currently contributing to this effort. The Sarawak Forestry Commission has developed many wonderful parks and reserves.
In Miri city, one such place is the 93.65ha (229 acres) Piasau Nature Reserve. There are not many places in the world which has a nature reserve in a city and by the sea. More such types of open spaces should be created.
We also have many parks managed by our local authorities and in Miri, we have the popular Miri City Fan, Bulatan Park (which attracts a lot of early morning exercise groups) and Taman Awam, albeit with some maintenance issues.
The Miri City Council is also progressively planting more trees in open spaces in housing areas and gradually building jogging tracks in these areas.
It would ideal if the private sector contributed more in this aspect. Developers of residential areas are obliged to leave a certain amount of open space as part of their obligation. However, many should actually build up the open spaces properly rather than just leave it empty and messy.
It is indeed refreshing to see a wonderful initiative by a commercial developer here in Miri city. A pleasant and beautiful green open public space has been built by them fronting the sea called Miri Central Park in Marina ParkCity. More such corporate social responsibility projects should be done. It is now one of the most frequented parks by people in Miri.
We should make it a top strategic priority to speed up the creation of such open green public spaces.
In Miri city, we already have a good starting point for making our city healthier, cleaner, safer and more sustainable.
Ultimately, with the support of people, government and the private sector, we can achieve a high degree of green, livable and healthy towns and cities across Sarawak.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.