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Planning Open Spaces with and for the children – local context of Kathmandu

Apekshya Dhungel Foto

Apekshya Dhungel Foto

Name of the researcher: Apekshya Dhungel, PhD student, Masters in Landscape Architecture

Description of the research

The aim of this research is to develop a concept of child friendly spaces in an urban setting together with children in the planning process as well as management. Due to rapid growth in the population and the built form respectively, Kathmandu has changed its form enormously since 1960 to 2000 and the process is ongoing. Representing a city in a global scenario which has witnessed rapid change in the urban landscape, it is expedient to understand the current situation of open spaces for the children to comprehend a better situation.

The traditional open spaces within the neighbourhood served as the social and cultural unit integrated as part of the built form. Encroachment due to migration and modernisation is diminishing the sense of community bonding and safety in these spaces. The new settlements sprawling towards the less dense areas have lesser provision for public open spaces, giving less chance for residents to get involved in communal activities and social interaction.

There are mandates that compel local municipalities to formulate programs and undertake open space development and management but still the concept of parks have been fulfilled only at regional level. This means that there are parks where one can plan a trip for a weekend outing but majority of neighbourhoods do not have open spaces or green areas where children can play, explore and express themselves freely in a daily basis which is vital for their overall development.

The unique aspect under consideration is the social and cultural open spaces that existed in the core of the city. These communal spaces within the built form brought life within the neighbourhood and they are now in the threat of being completely lost due to the rapid urbanisation. Children on one hand should experience freedom and self-expressiveness, on the other hand, feel a sense of belonging through the city’s history and their cultural identity (article 29 & 31, UN convention 1990). Hence, to help children grow into their full potential remaining intact with their culture and identities is the aim of this research

United nations (UN) also identified the role of young people in shaping their own environment in Habitat Agenda (II) by stating “special attention needs to be paid to the participatory processes dealing with the shaping of cities, towns and neighbourhoods… to secure the living conditions of children and of youth and to make use of their insight, creativity and thoughts on the environment”. With the concept of ‘child friendly cities’ as local governance system, Habitat II identified the wellbeing of children as the indicator of a healthy society where not only children but all age and social groups live better (UNICEF, 2012).

Hence, participatory approach will be taken with methodological research tools to understand children’s requirements of open spaces along with literature review and case studies showcasing child friendly planning approaches. The use and constraints in the existing open spaces- parks, squares, streets, playground etc. will be identified. Experts opinion towards planning for the children will also be taken into consideration. The legal documents as well as international standards will be reviewed. All the findings will be analysed based on scientific (qualitative and quantitative) grounds to fulfil the research objective.

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