Here’s why your city isn’t a lush, green oasis yet

A growing number of cities are trying to transform from concrete jungles into urban forests, but few experience the level of success their citizens might have hoped for. In this short article from the authors of a paper for Nature’s Urban sustainability journal, they offer a diagnosis of delivery capabilities on large international nature-based projects. Basically, “despite being ambitious and well-intentioned, cities rarely have the full set of skills and capabilities required to successfully implement their plans.”

Delivering major urban greening projects often means reclaiming road space, procuring private property, or replacing trees and plants that struggle to establish. These are normal teething difficulties, but they can lead to projects being labelled “failures” when organisations don’t have a healthy attitude to risk.

Cities are very different yet face many of the same challenges, that’s true even for such projects, where many suffer through the same three issues: not enough staff, no clear processes for actually delivering the greening, and risk-averse organizational culture that pushes back on new things.

As many project leaders in cities and any large organizations have realized, finding a champion higher up in leadership can make the whole difference between good intentions and good results.

Fixing these problems largely depends on getting executive and political leaders with clout involved to assign resources, streamline processes and modernise attitudes to risk. It’ll be a hard sell — these fiddly organisational reforms aren’t as fun as giving bold speeches or cutting ribbons.

Photo: The Cheonggyecheon stream in the heart of Seoul, which used to be a major highway. Shutterstock