Trees and forests offer diverse ecological and socioeconomic benefits to humans irrespective of their geographical location. However, trees and forests are hardly available and are inaccessible in most urban areas mainly because of the continued population increase and development activities.
The pressure to accommodate the growing urban population in most African cities and towns burden environmental resources, mainly trees and forests. Similarly, the need to upgrade the urban areas through the establishment of basic and advanced infrastructure such as roads and buildings exerts more pressure on the few trees and forests.
The magnitude of stress on natural resources is higher in informal urban settlements, which are intensely populated. For instance, in Kibera informal settlement in Nairobi, the population is estimated to be more than 120,000 persons per square kilometre.
Fundamentally, trees and forests play significant roles in urban areas, such as climate cooling, carbon capture and storage, and greening effect hence providing natural aesthetics and psychological benefits.
Noting that informal settlements are already constrained of resources, highly degraded and heavily impacted by climate change risks such as floods, emphasis on safeguarding the existing trees and forests and establishing new ones is paramount.
Although there might be limited space to establish new forests within an informal settlement, planting trees along the main highway and along the inner roads would be ideal. Thus, to advance this, water bodies such as rivers would also be utilised by planting grasses and trees along the stream; this will also reduce instances of riverine flooding. This way, all resources are put to maximum use without causing any displacements.
Happy international Forest Day!
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