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Green and Just? - Assessing the Socio-Spatial Distribution of Green Areas in Malmö

By Laura Wascher


Malmö strives to become an attractive and sustainable city by 2030. Continued population growth is a major reason for the need to densify within the existing urban structures. But more inhabitants will also increase pressure on usage and demand for green spaces in the city. Green space is of importance for human well-being and health, especially in urban environments. However the importance of green space is being marginalised in current debate and urban planning, due to the intensive focus on densification. The relevance of green space as an environmental quality has neither been recognised sufficiently in discussions on environmental justice. Previous policy and research has not integrated the socioeconomic dimension when assessing green space distribution. Hence this case study aimed to investigate the socio-spatial distribution of green areas in Malmö. A theoretical framework was compiled including concepts on environmental justice, i.e. the equal distribution of environmental qualities among different social groups. Moreover concepts regarding access (public/private), distance (walkability) and size (utilisation) of green areas were considered. A quantitative analysis was conducted with secondary data. As no comprehensive data set covered more recent years, census data and spatial data from 2005 was used for further analysis. The data was processed and analysed with the help of a geographic information system (GIS). With this approach green space and green areas could be identified. Green areas were categorised according to the level of public access, the size and the respective recommended distances to homes. In addition several socioeconomic factors were extracted from the census data and visualised in GIS. Thus the least advantaged neighbourhoods that lacked various public green areas could be located. On the city level it could be identified that only 13% of the total land area were covered with public green areas, resulting in 46 sq m per inhabitant in 2005. In April 2011 the population of Malmö passed the threshold of 300 000. Assuming that the amount of green areas had not changed since 2005 (unlikely), every inhabitant would have had 38 sq m of public green area in 2011. Considering these numbers in a Swedish context reveals that Malmö is on the bottom line of green area provision. On the neighbourhood level the greatest deficit was found in the eastern parts of central Malmö (e.g. Ostervärn), covering a network of neighbourhoods further south (Norra Sofielund, Södra Sofielund, Almhög, Gullviksborg). In total 32 neighbourhoods were characterised by above average percentage of children, elderly, foreign born or population density. Moreover almost all neighbourhoods lacking green areas were characterised by below average income. The results showed evidence for inequalities in the distribution of green areas between different social groups. This poses an incentive for further investigations in the field of environmental justice and sustainable urban development. Issues like actual walking distance, barriers and safety, qualities of green spaces and user experiences should be investigated in future research. Noting that the data used in this study was from 2005, it is crucial to update and determine shifts in socio-spatial distribution of green areas in the city today. Whilst the population is still increasing, it is likely that even more green space has vanished in the 7 years since 2005. All these issues are essential for a good knowledge based planning of the green and just future of Malmö

Topics: urban green space, accessibility, environmental justice, sustainable urban development, geographic information systems (GIS), Sweden, Humanities and the Arts, Humaniora och konst
Publisher: Malmö högskola/Kultur och samhälle
Year: 2012
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