How much green space does your city have?

Marcelino Vázquez is the Head of Environmental Planning at the Planning Institute of Colima (IPCo), a Sustainable Cities International Network member. He graduated with a degree in Architecture specializing in Environmental Planning. His primary interest, personal and professional, is establishing a close relationship between human beings and their surroundings.

Read the original post in Spanish here

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Green spaces are parks and gardens that exist inside a city — spaces to play, exercise or enjoy the day. These spaces contribute to the quality of life of the people of a city by increasing air quality, reducing the heat island effect, and improving the health of people in the community, among other benefits. The quantity of green space that exists in a city is measured against its population. One of the cities with the greatest area per person is Curitiba in Brazil, with 52 m2 per person, follow by New York, Madrid, and Santiago, Chile. Among the cities with the least green space per person are Tokyo and Buenos Aires with 1.90 m2 (see graph below).

My city is Colima, Mexico. As a whole, Colima has 6.2 m2 of green space per person, though that number varies from one area of the city to another (see chart below).


The World Health Organization (WHO), in its concern for public health, produced a document on the subject stating that every city should have a minimum of 9 m2 of green space per person. An optimal amount would sit between 10 and 15 m2 per person. As we can see, Colima falls short. The problem worsens when we consider that the population continues to grow, but new green spaces are not being created at an equal pace.

Despite this challenge, our city has enormous potential to convert empty urban space into green space. The river banks and streams that pass through the city and large empty lots offer infinite possibilities. These are ideal areas to convert to spaces made for recreation and leisure.

At IPCo, we have already taken steps to create more and better green spaces in the city. The participatory planning project in Huertas del Cura is an example, as are the projects in Francisco I. Madero, Miradores de la Cumbre and Tívoli. In addition, we have undertaken studies that indicate not only the amount of green space in the city, but also the state of our green spaces and what needs to be done to improve them (see our Plan Integral de Acción para Prevenir la Inseguridad para el Municipio de Colima).

Our task now is to identify ways to increase the amount of green space in our city, primarily in areas where there isn’t any, areas where there isn’t enough, or areas where the population density is higher. The question is, how do we go about making more high-quality parks? Where are the best areas for green spaces?

Can you identify these areas in your city? What are some ideal areas to develop as green space?


The graphic shows population information taken for the 2005 population census. In 2005 Colima had a population of 123,597 and 771,000 m2 of green space, meaning 6.2 m2 per person. In 2010 the population is 137,383 meaning we now have 5.6 m2 per person.


More information (in Spanish):

Plan Integral de Acción para Prevenir la Inseguridad para el Municipio de Colima

The Participatory Planning Process in Huertas del Cura

About sustainablecitiesnetwork

Sustainable Cities International is a registered not-for-profit organization based in Vancouver, Canada. Operating since 1993, the mission of Sustainable Cities is to catalyze action on urban sustainability with cities around the world. We work by connecting and mobilizing people through the process of co-creating. We facilitate a thriving, international network of cities that act as urban laboratories: adopting, testing and improving on innovations. Ideas are accelerated through sharing of experience and cities are making transformational change a reality
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8 Responses to How much green space does your city have?

  1. Great! Thanks.
    Just a comment. This post has had the most views on our blog (spanish), written by an amazing architect working in IPCo from day 2 he finished his degree. Under 25 by now. So, youth force pushing the edge again.

  2. G says:

    Do you have a direct link to the document you mention here: “The World Health Organization (WHO), in its concern for public health, produced a document on the subject stating that every city should have a minimum of 9 m2 of green space per person.”

  3. Pingback: DomestiCity: A Photo Essay on Domestic Activities in Dense Urban Areas | This Big City

  4. Gero says:

    Friend, Curitiba can have “52 m2 of green space per inhabitant”, but, the “green space” are concentrated and localized (in parks, boulevards, etc…), so, in some area of the city we have low to none “green space” and all the problems that the lack of it can bring.
    The best “green city” is the one that have the higher m2/inhabitant but also the best distribution coeficient of it, i.e., the “green” is widespread.

  5. Pingback: DomestiCity: visual research on domestic activities in dense urban areas

  6. santeria says:

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