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Experts say better planning is solution to environmental challenges

Published:Monday | June 29, 2015 | 6:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Trafalgar Park is one of the many green areas in Kingston. Experts have been lobbying for green development as part of a move to better utilise natural resources.

THE DIRECTOR of the spatial and planning division at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is encouraging persons to embrace green development in a bid to help mitigate against the effects of climate change.

Green development is a land-use planning concept that includes consideration of community wide or regional environmental implications of development as well as site-specific green building concepts. The concept includes city planning, environmental planning, architecture, landscape architecture and community building.

"People believe that green development is expensive. Over the short term, yes, it is, but as you start to move towards the medium and long term, it gets cheaper and you will realise the benefits," said Leonard Francis, who argues that it is imperative that Jamaica pursues green development.

Experts have pointed to energy savings as an example of a benefit that is derived from embracing green development. In addition, increased energy efficiency helps reduce emissions associated with generating electrical power. Also, trees can remove gaseous air pollution by uptake via leaf stomata. Trees and other green infrastructure features also reduce heat island effects in urban areas, which can experience significantly higher temperatures in summer months as compared to outlying areas due to the pavements and rooftops which absorb and radiate heat.

A study conducted by Dr Payam Dadvand of the Centre for Research and Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, Spain, found that green spaces within and around schools can boost the mental development, particularly the short-term memory, of schoolchildren.

The study, published in the June 15 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to observe this kind of impact. The researchers found that the students who attended schools with more green spaces showed a five per cent improvement in working memory, a type of short-term memory that is critical for reasoning, learning and comprehension. Their inattentiveness also decreased slightly.

Gregory Bennett, manager for the national spatial strategy branch/geographical information system at NEPA, has urged the relevant authorities to implement a structured documentation of the benefits of green development.

"In order to convince the regular man about green development, you must have something to show," Bennett said in an interview with The Gleaner on Friday.

"What we have found is that the benefits of green development are not really documented in Jamaica. In other countries, they have done that, but there is nothing to show here in terms of statistics," Bennett said.