The case for urban trees: Greenery can improve public health in Karachi — Tribune com

A view of the greenery at Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH)(above).

A view of the greenery at Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH)(above). One of the rooms at AKUH which has a view of the campus greenery (below). Research suggests greener views help patients recover quickly. PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Since 1984, when researcher Roger Ulrich discovered that patients with greener views recovered more quickly than others, there has been growing scientific evidence in support of the health benefits of trees. In Karachi where trees are at the mercy of greedy civic agencies and advertisers, there’s an urgent need to understand the link between public health and the city’s green cover and protect the urban lungs.

Syed Zafar Ahmed Fatmi, an associate professor at Aga Khan University Hospital’s Department of Community Health Sciences, says urban trees – with their shade and cooling effect – decrease the overall temperature and prevent formation of heat islands in the city so much so that a house can have 30% decrease in energy-use by having two to three fully grown trees around it.

“In Karachi, where many people work outdoors, exposure to heat can have negative health effects. Contact with heat causes electrolyte misbalance – fluctuation of fluids in our body due to deficiency or overabundance of essential minerals – and trees reduce chances for this as well as of heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” the associate professor explains.

Fatmi says people living in greener areas are also more inclined to do physical activities which in turn affect their fitness. “More trees mean you go out for walk and you walk more. With few trees, there’s smoke, dust and heat in the environment and people are unlikely to go out if not necessary,” he says.

Further listing the benefits, Fatmi says trees absorb carbon dioxide and other pollutants and as a result make air cleaner to breathe.

Peace of mind

Explaining how trees affect our mind, psychologist Naheed Khan says the soothing effect of lush green trees helps to stay calm. “Interacting with vegetation like in gardening is also therapeutic as seeing something grow enhances mental health,” she states.

Khan says the green colour of urban trees is pleasing to human eyes in contrast to grey concrete. “When we go to big cities like New York, we may marvel at architectural wonders but tall buildings are not as pleasing as tall trees,” she remarks, stating that tree shade is precious as it refreshes our body even during hot days.

The sound of wind going through tree leaves, Khan adds, brings peace of mind.


How trees make us healthier?


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