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Green public spaces in the cities of South and Southeast Asia

Protecting needs towards sustainable well-being


The significance of green public spaces is well documented in relation to social inclusiveness, human health, and biodiversity, yet how green public spaces achieve what Gough (2017) has termed ‘sustainable wellbeing’ is less understood. This contribution presents preliminary results from a study of green public spaces in four mega-cities of South and Southeast Asia: Chennai (the Republic of India), Metro Manila (the Republic of the Philippines), Singapore, and Shanghai (the People’s Republic of China), cities that have climates ranging from tropical, to subtropical and temperate. The conceptual framework brings together social practice theories with human development theories, methodological implications for the study of park usage, and Protected Needs. This study sets out to understand how parks satisfy human needs by uncovering practices in relation to activities and material arrangements. Central to the research design and sampling strategy is a desire to understand park-related practices in all of their diversity, and accounting for how different activities are carried out by diverse groups of people. The paper presents exemplary results showing that parks provide a space in which a multitude of needs are satisfied, and that parks cannot be substituted by other settings such as commercialized spaces. The paper will conclude by discussing tensions between types of park usage, and in relation to commercial encroachments on public space.

Pages:89 to 110
Section: Society
How to Cite
Sahakian, M., Anantharaman, M., Di Giulio, A., Saloma, C., Zhang, D., Khanna, R., Narasimalu, S., Favis, A., Alfiler, C., Narayanan, S., Gao, X. and Li, C. (2020) “Green public spaces in the cities of South and Southeast Asia”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(2), pp. 89-110. doi:

Author Biographies

Marlyne Sahakian is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Geneva, where she brings a sociological lens to consumption studies in relation to sustainability themes. Her research interest is in understanding everyday social practices, in relation to environmental concerns and social equity. Her inter- and trans-disciplinary research relates to food consumption and energy usage in urban spaces, as well as societal wellbeing, and she writes regularly on these themes. She co-founded SCORAI Europe in 2012 – a network in the field of sustainable consumption research and action, and is a board member of the European Sociological Association’s Consumption Research Network.

Saint Mary's College of California
United States United States

Manisha Anantharaman is an Assistant Professor of Justice, Community and Leadership at Saint Mary’s College of California, USA. A multidisciplinary problem-driven social scientist, she studies the potential for, pathways to, and politics of socially-just sustainability transitions. Her publications include an upcoming edited book on “The Circular Economy and the Global South” (Routledge, UK) which examines expressions and contestations of the circular economy in several Asian, African and South American countries. Her most recent research project, funded by the Swiss Network of International Studies, examines the role of green public spaces in supporting sustainable well-being in Asian cities. She received her PhD from the Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management at the University of California Berkeley (2015). In 2019, she was invited to the Alba Viotto Visiting Professorship in Sociology at the University of Geneva.

PhD in philosophy (University of Bern, Switzerland). Leader of the Research Group Inter-/Transdisciplinarity and senior researcher at the Program Man-Society-Environment (MGU), Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Basel, Switzerland. Until 2014 senior researcher and lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Centre for General Ecology (IKAÖ), University of Bern. Research interests: theory and methodology of inter- and transdisciplinary research and teaching, the 'good life' in the context of sustainable development, sustainable consumption, education for sustainable development.

Ateneo de Manila University
Philippines Philippines

Czarina Saloma is Professor of Sociology at the Ateneo de Manila University, and recent Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellow at Universität Bielefeld. She obtained her doctorate degree in Sociology from Universität Bielefeld in Germany (2002), her M.A. in Population Science from Peking University in the People’s Republic of China (1994), and her B.A. in Sociology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman (1991). Her work examines knowledge mobilization in relation to the built environment, sustainable consumption, and social development, and promotes a problem-solving mode in social science engagement. Her books include Possible Worlds in Impossible Spaces: Knowledge, Gender, and Information Technology in the Philippines (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2006) Casa Boholana (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2011); Many Journeys, Many Voices: Filipina Overseas Workers, 1960-2010 (Anvil Publishing, 2015); Food Consumption in the City: Practices and Patterns in Urban Asia and the Pacific (Routledge, 2016), and The Inconsistent State: Population Displacements, Hybrid Politics, and Everyday Engagements with the Philippine State (forthcoming). She is currently the President of the Women’s and Gender Studies Association of the Philippines and Chair of the Technical Panel for Sociology of the Philippine Commission on Higher Education.

Shanghai University
China China

Ph.D in Sociology at Peking University in 1998. Professor at the School of Sociology Political Science at Shanghai University since 2007.

Nanyang Technological University
Singapore Singapore

Rupali Khanna is Assistant Professor (Senior) at University of Delhi and is also currently working as a research fellow with the Energy Research Institute, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Her expertise includes Economics, Game theory, Energy Poverty, Renewable energy and R&D in Renewable energy in the ASEAN, Techno-economic analysis of technologies, carbon tax, green public spaces and solar PV roadmap. Current projects include a) Techno-Economics of green technologies; b) Energy Poverty in the ASEAN Region; c) Renewable Energy R&D mapping d) Well being in the urban green spaces; e) Microgrids Market in the ASEAN Region: Policies, regulations and incentives; f) Solar PV Roadmap study.

Nanyang Technological University
Singapore Singapore

Dr. Narasimalu Srikanth is the Program Director and Senior Scientist leading the offshore renewables in Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University and is associated with the IGS & MAE School of Nanyang Technological University. He focuses on alternative energy sources and energy efficiency technologies towards onshore and offshore asset’s energy foot print reduction. In addition, he focuses his research to enhance energy security towards remote coastal and island communities through Blue economy & Blue growth strategies involving marine renewables and marine ecology preservation and promotes by managing SEACORE research network of ASEAN region. In Singapore, he focuses on green spaces as part of the Liveability efforts through developing key technologies towards heat island effect reduction and in energy & waste minimization as part of the circular economy initiatives. He represents Singapore in the IEA’s renewables initiative annex. He leads energy specific national standards mirror committee. His educational qualification includes first masters in design engineering and second masters in materials engineering and his first doctoral PhD degree in Mechanical engineering and his second doctoral PhD degree in Technology management and Innovation. He has published more than 150 journal papers and has 30 over patents.

Ateneo de Manila University
Philippines Philippines

Abigail Marie T. Favis obtained MSc in Environmental Sanitation at the University of Ghent, Belgium and her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science from the Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines. Currently she is the Program Manager for Campus Sustainability at the Ateneo Institute of Sustainability and a faculty member of the Department of Environmental Science, Ateneo de Manila University. Her research interests include sustainable consumption, waste management, and urban biodiversity and green spaces.

Ateneo de Manila University
Philippines Philippines

Cherie Audrey Alfiler completed her MA in Anthropology and BA in Social Sciences specializing in Cultural Heritage Studies at the Ateneo de Manila University. She is currently Research Associate at the Institute of Philippine Culture and Lecturer at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the Ateneo de Manila University. Her latest work entitled “Intermittent Departures, Returns, and the Incremental Acts of the Everyday: Paid Domestic Work and Insurgency in Sitio Sibol, Bohol” was published in Social Transformations: Journal of the Global South in 2018.

Independent researcher
India India

Sumana Narayanan is an ecologist by training. She is currently work in the field of sustainable development after a stint as an environmental journalist. Her areas of interest include biodiversity, water studies, fisheries, and urban transport. She also contributes to magazines and news portals on the above subjects as well as a range of topics from food to history to sport. She is an avid rower, book worm, and lover of all things fabric.

Shanghai University
China China

I’m a PhD candidate majoring in sociology at Shanghai University. My research direction is urban sociology and sociology of consumption. I have worked in the urban green public space management department for more than 10 years, so I have a lot of experience in the current situation and problems of urban green public spaces in China.

Shanghai University
China China

Master of Sociology, School of Sociology, Shanghai University.


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