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Front. Clim., 23 April 2024
Sec. Climate Adaptation
Volume 6 - 2024 |

Urban forests and their contribution to sustainable urban development in a global context: a case study of Multan, Pakistan

Anum Aleha1,2* Syeda Mahwish Zahra1 Sabeen Qureshi3 Shehroze Shah4 Sohrab Ahmed Marri4 Maska Khan4
  • 1Department of Architecture Design, National Fertilizer Corporation Institute of Engineering and Technology (NFC-IET), Multan, Pakistan
  • 2Research Lab for Design and Culture (RLDC), Department of Architecture, NFC Institute of Engineering and Technology, Multan, Pakistan
  • 3Department of Architecture, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET), Jamshoro, Pakistan
  • 4Department of Architecture, Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS), Quetta, Pakistan

Currently, cities and towns are home to over half of the global population, and this percentage will rise over the coming decades. Cities can be wonderful homes to live in if planned and maintained properly, but most urban developments have noticeably caused environmental destruction, which in turn results in issues like urban heat islands, flooding, and air pollution. Cities require forests as their breathing organs. The study refers to the case of Multan City, where the climate is deteriorating at an alarming rate due to rapid urbanization and the lack of vegetation. The study aims to provide an urban green infrastructure (UGI), which abides by the key proactive resilience principles of effectiveness, diversity, dependence, durability, versatility, autonomy, planning, and adaptability. A strategic literature review has been done to study the effects of urban forests, and various studies were reviewed as per the methodology adopted worldwide. The policy frameworks of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA) were considered while selecting sites for implementing urban forests. A five-point Likert scale questionnaire was developed for the participation of the community nearby. Ten different sites were selected in the city based on ownership and feasibility, irrespective of SDG, NUA, and community opinions. The study concludes with the design suggestion of one site as a prototype in the given context.


The notion of an “urban forest” refers to all trees that grow within urban areas, and these trees play a significant role in providing towns and cities with ecological services (McPherson et al., 1997; Nowak et al., 2001). Significant built-up areas and dense populations in metropolitan areas currently make up only a small portion of the world’s surface—up to 3% (Levan Alpaidze, 2022). Meanwhile, they share a major portion of the responsibility for human impacts on the environment (Elmqvist et al., 2013). Compared to the constantly rising demand from urbanized regions, where over half of the world’s population already resides and around 60% of people will do so by 2030, cities only generate a small portion of all goods and ecosystem services (Alpaidze and Salukvadze, 2023). The infrastructure of urban green spaces, or UGS, is currently receiving increased attention due to its importance for cities, whether they are developed, developing, or in the future. Sustainable development nevertheless requires sustained urbanization, and green planning for cities is seen as a successful defense against impending environmental and climate change concerns (Muhammad Rayan, 2022). According to David and McKane (2021), city planning is still a crucial arena for conflict in the pursuit of social and environmental justice. Globally, green infrastructure (GI) has become a key tactic for urban sustainability transitions (Grabowski et al., 2023). In addition, the existing state of affairs is causing ecological imbalances, disturbances to greenspace structures and ecosystem functions (ESF), biodiversity loss, and deteriorated health and well-being at all spatial scales. As a result, creative, green, nature-based solutions based on urban green infrastructure (UGI) are beginning to emerge as a new avenue for rehabilitating disrupted socio-ecological systems (Monteiro and Ferreira, 2020). Urban expansion and intensive land usage in urban green infrastructure are the main causes of the increasing pressure on urban forests surrounding cities in many regions of the world (Ingo Kowarik, 2019). Consequently, urban forest patches are becoming increasingly important for the conservation of biodiversity and are treasured by urban residents for their ability to make cities livable and the abundance of ecosystem services they provide (Konijnendijk, 2018).

The origins of urban forest patches and the ways in which humans have influenced their growth vary greatly, and as a result, they may make varied contributions to the conservation of urban biodiversity (Jim, 2017). It is widely known in restoration ecology that urban tree planting can create new forests, as seen in the cases of Oldfield et al. (2013), Johnson and Handel (2016), and McPhearson et al. (2017) and near-natural locations on the edge of cities.

However, resilience is becoming a global policy objective as cities face increasing challenges in recovering from acute and chronic shocks. Urban forests and trees are essential parts of the ecosystem because they assist city dwellers in several ways and strengthen the resilience of the broader social-ecological system. Reducing stormwater runoff, providing shade and cooling, and improving cognitive function are just a few of the advantages that come with cultural ecosystem services for human well-being. Other advantages include place attachment—the bonding of people to their surroundings—identity, and recreational space (Roy et al., 2012). People and groups that benefit from urban forests may perceive those benefits differently depending on how they interact with the forest and their individual values, preferences, and experiences with nature. These disparities in benefiting from urban forests are caused by the complexity of managing urban forests combined with the social and ecological heterogeneity of urban landscapes (Vogt, 2020). The rising impact of greenhouse gas emissions, of which CO2 is the most important and which consequently affects the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere, is currently one of society’s most pressing environmental problems (Wang et al., 2022). Many refer to it as global warming or climate change because forests absorb carbon. The paradigm is expected to gradually move toward a socio-climate centered on national and international policies that put more and more strain on forests in many cases (Börner et al., 2020).

Urban forests are the primary source of ecosystem services that urban dwellers receive. They do this by offering a variety of advantages, such as ecosystem services and contributions to the environment, economy, society, and ecology. Additionally, they offer a range of ecosystem goods and services that can enhance urban dwellers’ quality of life and have positive restorative impacts on human health, such as lowering stress and anxiety levels, reducing depression, and aiding in attention recovery (Emylia Shakira and Abas, 2023).

In order to ensure livable and sustainable urban development, urban forests are essential. If a city’s urban forest management is not updated and enhanced, its ecosystem function will be lacking since urban forests are a key mitigator of problems pertaining to people’s well-being and environmental problems that arise in the city.

Role of urban forest in NUA and SDGs

In 2015, the international community supported two major global development accords, the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, both of which have urban sustainable development at their core.

The 2030 Agenda, which builds on the MDGs, asks nations to mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty fight inequality, and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind by the 2030 agenda, which expands on MDGS. 17 Sustainable development goals or SDG,s are included in 2030 agenda (Desa, 2014).

The Paris Agreement’s sustainability targets are largely dependent on cities, as acknowledged at the 22nd United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which conducted its Conference of the Parties in Marrakech, Morocco, in 2016. The adoption of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) was the conference’s principal result, which lays forth a global plan to handle the challenges associated with urbanization in the ensuing decades. The NUA states that cities need to create people-centered urban plans that support their residents’ thriving rather than just surviving. Three “interlinked” concepts form the foundation of the NUA: environmental sustainability, inclusive and sustainable urban economies, and leaving no one behind. The NUA is predicated on the idea that, in both wealthy and developing nations, carefully thought-out and controlled urbanization may be an effective tool for sustainable development. It also emphasizes how connected it is to the 2030 Agenda and how it will help carry it out.

According to the NUA and the SDGs, especially SDG 11, urban green spaces like urban forests are essential for enhancing urban living conditions, fostering community cohesiveness, and advancing environmental sustainability. As a result, countries commit to promoting the creation of safe, hospitable, accessible, and ecologically sustainable public spaces (SDG 11). The role of urban forests in achieving Sustainable Development Goals is illustrated in Table 1, adopted by Salbitano et al. (2016).

Table 1

Table 1. The role of urban forests in achieving sustainable development goals.

Pakistan framework for green policies

Pakistan lacks the frameworks and inclusive land-use planning policies necessary to safeguard its citizens and ecosystems from escalating climatic risks. The majority of Pakistan’s largest cities, such as Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore, and Karachi, have seen a decline in the number of green spaces during the past 20 years, according to records and evidence. Lack of awareness and insufficient landscape and greening policies (LGP) are to blame for the conversion of agricultural land into urban infrastructure development in Pakistan (Rayan et al., 2022). The well-being of individuals, natural resources, and urban ecosystems is now under threat due to an increasing number of flood disasters. It is so because, according to the German Watch long-term climate risk index, Pakistan is the eighth-most vulnerable nation in the world to natural disasters, behind Thailand and Nepal (Eckstein et al., 2019). The lack of resources and inadequate management and planning procedures are the main causes of this, resulting in a variety of risks that have caused extensive (direct and indirect) harm to the urban system. Ineffective planning frameworks and standards for creating and regulating activities inside green areas are also to blame. The country will see many more natural disaster occurrences of varied sizes and effects if the current planning scenario holds (Rayan et al., 2022).

A significant aspect of the government’s 100-day goal is Clean & Green Punjab, which is also started by the local government and community development department of Punjab.1 As the campaign incorporates all government agencies, especially those in the districts, deputy commissioners are crucial to its success. The three main initiatives are planting trees, preventing encroachment, and maintaining cleanliness. To combat environmental problems, including pollution and garbage disposal, the Punjab Climate Change Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)2 are also working to reduce these highlighted issues. Planting trees continues to be an important duty for them, but tackling urban green infrastructure is consistently disregarded.

Even though th World green building council regulates the Pakistan green building council. According to the World GBC’s mandate, the Pakistan Green Building Council addresses all environmental concerns, including subsoil water levels, water utilization and usage, global warming, deforestation, carbon emissions, air quality, transport, farming, and industry. It also addresses building layout, living habits, and a system for certifying green products and buildings, and environmental education in schools. However, Pakistani development authorities have not yet put the code into practice (Muhammad Afrasiab et al., 2021).

Social cohesiveness, urban forest areas, and wellness for people

peri-urban and urban forests, which are “systems and networks including all forests, collections of trees, and particular trees located within and around urban areas,” can be effectively planned and managed (Salbitano et al., 2016) and can significantly improve the standard of urban green spaces. In Baltimore, Maryland, United States, for instance, a strong opposite association between criminal activity and tree cover was found (after controlling for numerous confounding variables); this association held true for private as well as public lands but was strongest for publicly accessible public lands (Troy et al., 2012). According to a study on the overall effectiveness of various urban elements, parks are regarded as valuable community resources. They invite residents of the neighborhood to public spaces where they can engage in recreational activities during times when individuals are more likely to be receptive to others and open to what is going on around them since they are having fun together in a public setting (Cohen et al., 2008). After taking into account demographic and socio-economic factors, a study done in the Netherlands found that having fewer green areas in people’s homes was linked to feelings of loneliness and an overall absence of social support (Maas et al., 2009). Overall, information obtained from interviews showed that those who had more access to green areas in their homes felt healthier, had less complaints about their health in the 14 weeks prior to the questionnaires, and had a lower self-rated propensity for mental illness. The study also found that the strongest and most reliable correlation between health markers and green space was found to be found beyond a radius of 1 km of people’s homes.

Advantages of peri-urban and urban forests

The significance of urban and peri-urban forests in delivering ecosystem services and influencing urban residents’ well-being is outlined in Figure 1. Policymaking, decision-making, and the value placed on ecosystem services are all impacted by preferences for specific ecosystem services. This management decision eventually affects the shape and composition of the urban and peri-urban forest estates. A city’s ability to withstand shocks and strains from the social and environmental spheres can be influenced by all of the framework’s elements (Dobbs et al., 2017).

Figure 1

Figure 1. Urban and peri-urban forests’ significance in delivering ecological services and impacting city dwellers’ well-being. Source: Adapted from Dobbs et al. (2017).

Environmental implications

Storms and flooding, which can be severe and frequent, are more likely to affect those who reside in urban areas. Stormwater management benefits from urban trees are numerous. The retention of contaminants in plants and soil may enhance stormwater quality, whereas the evaporation of precipitation collected by canopy trees and through evaporation can reduce stormwater flow (Stovin et al., 2008). The NUA calls for environmentally friendly handling of natural resources in towns and settlements that protects and enhances urban ecosystems and their ecological services, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, and promotes disaster risk reduction in accordance with SDGs 13 (climate action) and 15 (life on land). Urban and peri-urban forests and trees directly store and absorb environmental carbon dioxide, reducing the effects of climate change. Additionally, trees reduce wind speeds and provide shade, which indirectly reduces carbon emissions from power plants by lessening the need for air conditioning and heating (Nowak et al., 2013). Destructive combined sewer overflows are also less likely when there is less rainwater runoff (Fazio, 2010). Thus, trees are the source of shading and can extend the useful life of a roadway pavement by up to 10 years while reducing pollution from petroleum-intensive products and the operation of big machinery needed to resurface roads and take away waste (McPherson and Muchnick, 2005). By providing shade, lowering urban albedo, reducing the quantity of ultraviolet (UV) rays reflected back into the surroundings, and cooling through transpiration, urban and peri-urban trees can lessen the “heat island” effect (Lankao, 2008).

Urban and peri-urban forests can aid in reducing mortality caused, among others, by the consequences of climate change by increasing social cohesion. Long-term sustainable approaches to combating climate change must include measures to promote community stability (Williamson et al., 2010). For instance, in the catastrophic 1995 Chicago heatwave, the death rate varied significantly by neighborhood, partly because of variations in community cohesion (McMichael, 2003).

Socio-economic progress

According to the NUA, green spaces are increasingly seen as positive economic agents that can be used to raise economic status by, among other things, boosting property values, facilitating trade and public as well as private savings, and providing opportunities for everyone to earn a living (SDGs 8 and 10). Green areas are no longer just seen as beautiful landscape features. The effects of open spaces and woods in urban and peri-urban regions on property sale values are investigated using hedonic models. According to these calculations, a house’s valuation rises by 7% if there are open areas within 80–100 yards of it (Wolf, 2003; Conway et al., 2010) investigated the relationships between modifications to urban forest features and customer behavior in various American municipalities using contingent valuation methodologies. He discovered that consumers were 9–12% more likely to make a purchase in retail districts with trees than they were in equivalent areas without trees.

Inclusive governance in urban forest

In order to ensure the long-term survival of urban and peri-urban forests, inclusive leadership is crucial. This is because there is mounting evidence that governmental organizations are no longer the sole major players in decision-making processes (Lawrence et al., 2013). Therefore, in this aspect, long-term inclusive governance is necessary. The concept of governance with government is displacing governance by government in UPF, as it is across various urban policy sectors. To optimize the benefits of urban trees and other greenery in improving standard of living for city dweller, there needs to be constant, reliable dialogue between the persons and the population they serve. There are several benefits for inclusive public participation in decision-making regarding the urban living environment, such as improving these choices themselves, boosting the credibility of options, and gaining the support of the public for them.

In order to achieve inclusive governance, it is necessary to evaluate

• the categories and functions of participants in an inclusive UPF leadership program; and

• the community’s and its stakeholders’ desire to participate in governance activities and their attitude toward achieving it consequently.

Communities have complex socio-ecological systems (bio-geo-physically, socially, and inFstitutionally, for example), and there are a wide variety of stakeholders who could participate in urban forest governance. Figure 2 illustrates the phenomenon. Others may be more or less actively associated with urban forest governance procedures, while some may be directly involved in urban forest planning, design, and administration as professionals, technicians, users, and decision-makers (Salbitano et al., 2016).

Figure 2

Figure 2. The inclusive governance of urban forest participants. Source: Salbitano et al. (2016).

Civil society actors are increasingly seen as having a role to play in encouraging the prospective advantages of forest areas in urban or peri-urban regions. By undertaking action research, giving policy advice, and developing institutional capacity, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have played crucial roles in bridging knowledge gaps. These organizations also foster communication among nations, towns, and civil society to increase awareness of the need for living more sustainably among people worldwide (Ordóñez, 2021) and finally accomplish total integration of urban planning and administration with peri-urban and urban forests.

It is necessary to take into account the concept of “forest culture,” which refers to the perspectives and practices of a community regarding urban and peri-urban forests in relation to their biodiversity and biogeographical characteristics. A variety of worldwide methods for urban and peri-urban forest design are compiled in Table 2 in order to accomplish different goals.

Table 2

Table 2. List of a variety of international strategies for urban and peri-urban forest design to meet different goals.

Statement of the problem and proposed intervention

Pakistan currently lacks green policies and sustainable land-use planning methods. In order to address the increasing climate hazards, UGI may serve as the central focus of Sustainable Climate Risk Management (SCRM; Khayyam and Noureen, 2020; Rayan et al., 2021). According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), due to Pakistan’s huge terrain and numerous homes (220 million people), a sizeable fraction of the population (39.22%) lives in urban areas, and by 2030, this number will have increased to 50% (Rayan et al., 2022). There is a need for creative UGI design, putting urban areas and their residents at risk of catastrophic climate change. Increasing frequency of natural disasters. Due to persistent flooding, Pakistan’s susceptibility to natural catastrophes has increased to the ninth ranked (Eckstein et al., 2019; Khayyam and Noureen, 2020). The main area for this study is the urban center of District Multan, i.e., Multan City. We chose this area primarily for two reasons: (1) Multan is one of the fastest-expanding cities in Pakistan (Manzoor et al., 2019). Multan, also known as the city of Sufis and Saints, is one of the oldest towns on the Asiatic subcontinent, with a rich history and culture. It was established in the period of the Indus Valley Civilization, circa 5,000 BC. Latitude 30.18 N and longitude 71.48 E are the coordinates for Multan City (Fatima et al., 2021). Nonetheless, there has been no past research on the spatiotemporal changes in the urban green infrastructure, accept the authors own conference paper (Anum et al., 2021) in the Multan region’s environment, and (2) Multan is situated in the southern portions of Punjab province, which is said to be one of Pakistan’s most climate change-vulnerable regions. The damage varies due to the Multan future developmental Master Plan illustrated in Figure 3, where huge ignorance about urban green infrastructure is observed, which is leading the city toward disastrous climate change. As a result of unprecedented urban growth, pressure on green places is growing. Numerous climate-related issues are already developing, such as urban heat islands, droughts, and flooding (Desa, 2014). The previous studies of the author reveal that the spontaneous growth of housing societies is cutting off huge amounts of agricultural land (Anum et al., 2021). Furthermore, the current state also contributes to ecological imbalances, disturbances of ecosystem functions (ESF), loss of biodiversity, and deteriorated health and well-being at all spatial scales. Therefore, planning for urban green infrastructure (UGI) is becoming a new technique to improve disrupted socio-ecological systems through creative green, nature-based solutions (Monteiro and Ferreira, 2020).

Figure 3

Figure 3. The Multan Master Plan, 2008–2028. Source: Multan Development Authority (MDA).

The objective of the study and research questions

The objective of the study is to provide a framework for an urban green infrastructure model in the form of urban forests to enhance the resilience of targeted areas against climate hazards. This model will be created with a collaborative approach, involving professionals and community members.

The research questions are as follows:

Q1. What sustainable UGI indicator-based approach is necessary to build a climate-resilient city?

Q2. Does the community know about the SDGs and the NUA to build a climate-resilient city?

Materials and methods

This article explores the role of urban and peri-urban forests (UPF) as part of an all-encompassing strategy to develop urban green infrastructure by presenting several international perspectives on the necessity of proper design in UPF. The study refers to the case of Multan City, where the climate is deteriorating at an alarming rate due to rapid urbanization and the lack of vegetation.

The methodology of the study addresses the following areas, illustrated in Figure 4, through a flow chart:

• The strategic literature review identifies the role of urban forests on a global scale and how SDGs and NUA will play a vital role in making cities resilient to cater to climate change.

• To review the proposed Multan city Master Plan by the local development authority for the identification of urban infrastructure in a development plan.

• Questionnaire from multi-stakeholders and the community at the regional level.

• To identify 10 different neglected open spaces and native species of plants by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pakistan Horticultural Authority (PHA) in the city, irrespective of ownership of land.

• To conclude prototype design suggestions for future implications.

Figure 4

Figure 4. Conceptual framework. Source: Authors’ elaboration.

Examining a potential framework model based on UGI indicators

The UGI model is created by combining two approaches: (a) creating a conceptual framework on which to construct the framework, which is then extended to combining anthropogenic behaviors and UGI for strong cities; and (b) creating climate resilience methods that depend on ecosystem functions, well-being for humans, and UGI elements. The framework/model that is being offered, as well as the resilience strategies, as a result, address or incorporate various theoretical concepts (such as green space networks, energy and the management of water, the sustainable economy, biodiversity and wildlife, organic food, adaptation and mitigation, ecosystems, social cohesion, and adaptability) that were spawned from the informal discussions that were carried out through a field survey. As a result of these innovative concepts, the UGS infrastructure may assist in addressing sustainable climate risk management (SCRM). The determination of UGI criteria for green urban design, such as managing stormwater, a decrease in noise pollution, an improvement in air quality, etc., results from the thorough integration of all three aspects—the ecological, social and cultural, and economic dimensions.

Processes for engaging multiple stakeholders (MSEP)

As a participative planning strategy, multi-stakeholder engagement procedures (MSEP) continue to be beneficial in involving the stakeholders. The Environmental Protection Agency, Pakistan Horticulture Authority, and the respondents from the GOV (governance), ACAD (academicians), PRACT (professionals), and INGO (international non-state/government actors/organizations) experts to whom the local survey was extended are among the study’s stakeholders, as illustrated in Figure 5. Therefore, in this instance, MSEP offered a thorough pathway to ensure the effective participation of the population/native participants in the process of decision-making, including the experts acting as policymakers, professionals, scholars, and the local community. This study uses MSEP to develop an environmentally friendly UGI indicator-based structure, which is valuable but underutilized when formulating strategies and frameworks for putting land-use planning into practice (Ashfaque, 2015). However, MSEP continues to be useful for developing and putting into action programs for nature-based green infrastructure (NBGI).

Figure 5

Figure 5. Expert strata. Source: Authors’ elaboration.

To find and hypothesize similarities between the community and the experts’ perspectives on UGI indicators, a paired MSEP analysis is used here. This leads to the classification of UGS components, which is based on the sociocultural and environmental context of the area. A number of fundamental sustainable UGI indicators and UGS components have also been confirmed and validated by the MSEP implementation. This resulted in the creation of a framework or model based on UGI indicators that is inclusive, sustainable, and richly multifunctional and can be applied to the local built environment. A paradigm like this enables community members to participate in the creation of cutting-edge, multipurpose urban green areas, reducing the high risk of disasters like urban flooding, droughts, urban heat island (UHI) effects, etc. Overall, MSEP has contributed to the creation of an environmentally friendly and climate-resilient model.

Survey design

Two survey approaches were used in this study to operationalize a thorough empirical analysis. First, 200 people participated in an expert-based perception survey, of which 162 were used to create the final findings. Since the required questions were not answered, the rest of the surveys were excluded. The expert-based perception survey’s demographic data showed that 44.9% of respondents were female. The specific participants were divided into eight different expert strata using a purposive sampling technique (Table 3).

Table 3

Table 3. Participants in the eight different expert strata/groups’ demographic information.

The second main approach for gathering data was based on empirical research conducted in the study districts of Multan. A snowball approach was used to label every fourth house away from a reference point on specific houses. A systematic questionnaire that was divided into sections labeled A–C mentioned in Figure 6 was used to collect data to obtain community perspective and the importance of urban green infrastructure in the context of Multan. Verifying participants’ backgrounds, qualifications, and knowledge is the primary objective of Section A. The four questions in Section B, which are included in Appendix A, were designed to confirm and validate the viewpoints of the local community and experts on the UGI, the impact of climate change, climate change adaptation, and urban resilience. Ecological, sociocultural, and economic subsections make up Section C, with marking appropriate on the five-point Likert scale questionnaire attached in Appendix B. Each area comprises a number of questions with the goal of rating them on a Likert scale and determining the level of importance of each unique sustainable UGI indicator and its connections to various green components. These indicators and components for potential UGI were generated by earlier studies. Through this method, we were able to identify the most important green components that would improve a specific UGI indicator’s standard and quality and build urban areas that are resistant to natural disasters like flooding (Rayan et al., 2021). The focus of community-based questionnaires, with respondents ranging from a variety of socio-economic strata, is illustrated in Table 4.

Figure 6

Figure 6. Detailed (expert and community) questionnaire sections organized in a hierarchy (Rayan et al., 2021).

Table 4

Table 4. Information about the community members’ demographics.

Identification of open spaces in the Multan City

In order to cover regions where there is a shortage of vegetation, 10 sites are chosen throughout the city, as illustrated in Figure 7. There is diversity in the locations; two are in public universities, two are in industrial areas, five are in parks managed by the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA), and one is in the parking lot of a mall. It is clearly evident in the satellite image that a fertile plain is being deprived of its vegetation, resulting from unjustified urban growth and austere neglect of climate change. This research, therefore, aims at rejuvenating urban land through the creation of urban forests. The identified stakeholders will then take care of these forests until they are mature enough to survive on their own. The location of sites and their potential use in correlation with SDGs and NUA were discussed in Table 5.

Figure 7

Figure 7. Proposed 10 sites with their potential uses and native plants.

Table 5

Table 5. Proposed 10 sites with their potential use and native plants.


Perspectives from experts and the community on several cross-cutting themes

In answer to the questions provided, this part defines the understanding of the definitions of climate change (CC), adaptations to CC, urban resilience, and UGI ideas held by the planning professionals and community in the study area discussed in Figure 8. The findings demonstrate that, in comparison to community preferences, planning professionals believe alternatives 1, 2, 5, and 6 are more effective than options 3 and 4, with options 1, 2, 6, and 7 having more satisfaction acceptance votes (SAV) than option 4. This demonstrates the relative weight that the community and professionals place on various issues (not their disparities). Most of the time, the importance levels overlapped since both groups of stakeholders emphasized the significance of related variables. As a result, the overall result represents possibilities that are equivalent, such as options one and two, “increased extreme weather events,” and option five, “increased ecological damage,” with a vote of confidence (VoC) rating of >75%. Nevertheless, both groups did not give the same weight to option six.

Figure 8

Figure 8. Climate change (CC) information. Authors’ estimates use survey results as a source.

“An increasing sea level” (experts: 51.8% and community: 91.6% VOC), despite the fact that a greater VoC viewed it as a crucial factor. All four of these scenarios can be thought of as a threshold level by which to define the concept of climate change in its natural spatial setting.

The results that follow similarly look at climate change adaptation. Options 1 and 3, which received 74.8 and 65.7% VOC, respectively, were thought to be more advantageous by the experts. While the neighborhood rated choices one, two, three, four, and six as being of the utmost importance, giving a score of >75% SAV in Figure 9. Therefore, in order to implement the “adaptation to the effects of climate change” notion in the local urban context, all five of these variables are crucial to enhancing adaptive ability as well as building durability against ever-rising hazards to the environment, such as urban flooding, flooding, etc., across metropolitan areas. These five overlapping variables emphasize the significance of encouraging an environmentally friendly and climate-resilient environment.

Figure 9

Figure 9. Understanding climate change (CC) adaptations. Authors’ calculations are based on survey results.

A deeper investigation reveals the core of urban resilience, which is produced through comprehending local knowledge, traits, and perspectives on prospective opportunities. The specialists supported choice one, but the general public agreed that the primary potential variables are one, two, three, four, five, and seven (all with strong positive scores). The pattern in Figure 10 shows that one’s ability to learn when dealing with climate change challenges determines how well one adapts to CC. In order to promote nature-based infrastructure (NBGI) solutions, it is still crucial to fund regional mitigation/adaptation activities, even though adaptation to CC is still essentially subjective.

Figure 10

Figure 10. Urban resilience definition. Authors’ calculations are based on survey results.

Additional findings help to clarify UG and demonstrate that option 2 was recognized as a high-priority attribute by three-quarters (75.9%) of the experts, in contrast to other choices (such as one, three, and 10), which received >50% VoC. However, the neighborhood also acknowledged choice 2 as having a highly substantial quality (80.7% SAV). With a confidence level ranging from 60 to 75%, the community also supported alternatives 1, 3, 6, 4, 5, 8, and 9 in Figure 11. Therefore, all conceivable variables that could have an impact on planning must be taken into account while closing any gaps. This was done by the planning professionals. This will afterward help the government. Institutes in the development of nature-based green infrastructure (NGBI) methods for long-term human settlements in the city of Multan and beyond. Additionally, in order to promote a comprehensive strategy, all nine viable options are listed below (as agreed upon by both planning professionals and the community), ranked according to importance, and can be used as a yardstick to determine UGI.

Figure 11

Figure 11. Urban green infrastructure (UGI) definition. Authors’ calculations are based on survey results.

In conclusion, the results above support: (a) endorsing multiple optimal options for urban green indicators; (b) understanding cross-cutting themes from a multi-stakeholder perspective (e.g., climate change adaptation, urban resilience, and UGI); and (c) recognizing and promoting community stewardship in the planning/decision-making process for NBGI initiatives. These actions can aid in the effective tackling of socio-environmental issues brought on by climate change. Such initiatives could help create a framework based on UGI indicators that is richly multifunctional. This concept is adaptable to a natural spatial setting. As a result, the delicate reciprocity between CC, UGI, and UGS and human health and well-being is strengthened even further. All of this aids in the building of climate-resilient, green cities.

Design suggestion

Figure 12 shows the proposed urban forest design with native plant species on one of the 10 sites identified in the research. Regional trees are used to create the requirements for the prototype design idea for an urban forest. The involvement of multiple stakeholders provides a comprehensive approach to suggestions made during participatory design in all areas of study. The design recommendation of the total number of trees and shrubs in a city makes up its urban forest, which is a component of the forest ecosystem and offers the city numerous quantifiable ecological service benefits. The assessment of ecological benefits such as carbon sequestration and oxygen release, air quality improvement, cooling and humidification, noise reduction, energy savings, and precipitation retention is also beneficial to the ecological service value of urban woods. Additionally, the proposed design will preserve the richness of local bird species.

Figure 12

Figure 12. Proposed design suggestions for urban forests.

Conclusion and decision-making implications

According to the research study, creating an eco-friendly, green, and climate-resilient city-state may be possible with the help of urban green infrastructure. Including Urban forests which aim to bring people back into peace with the natural world and raise awareness of the multi-functional green infrastructure in an effort to establish a new sustainable cultural paradigm that will support green urban development in the Multan region of Pakistan. This includes a two-way sustainable development path that includes expert opinion and native inhabitants, presenting a more participative and innovative approach—this green and resilient urban development is projected. The local setting has been shown to affect people’s values and views in context.

In addition, a nature-based green infrastructure (NBGI) holds a stronger way of addressing the attitudes and preferences of those same local stakeholders, both specialists and people in the community, once it builds on the local realities. As a result, using such a comprehensive participatory approach to create a taxonomy of UGS features is still productive and practical. It is special because it establishes a connection with the relevant sustainable UGI indicators in the neighborhood’s built environment, whereby the creation of a framework or model based on inclusive sustainability of UGI indicators embeds the neighborhood context. In Multan and worldwide, it might have the potential to able to meet the requirements for a green, climate-resillient city state. Further evidence suggests that a local, context-based model linked to the SDGs and NUA may alter the sustainable UGI indicators used to build the model and comprehensively link that model with a variety of green components to reshape urban land-use planning and ensure a resilient city-state.

Data availability statement

The original contributions presented in the study are included in the article/Supplementary material, further inquiries can be directed to the corresponding author.

Ethics statement

Ethical review and approval was not required for the study on human participants in accordance with the local legislation and institutional requirements. Written informed consent from the participants was not required to participate in this study in accordance with the national legislation and the institutional requirements.

Author contributions

AA: Conceptualization, Data curation, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Project administration, Resources, Software, Validation, Writing – original draft. SZ: Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Resources, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing. SQ: Conceptualization, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing. SS: Conceptualization, Data curation, Writing – original draft. SM: Investigation, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing. MK: Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing.


The author(s) declare that no financial support was received for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher’s note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

Supplementary material

The Supplementary material for this article can be found online at:


SDG, Sustainable development goals; NUA, New Urban agenda; MDGs, Millenium development goals; IGOs, Intergovernmental organizations; NGOs, Non-governmental organizations; FAO, Food and Agriculture organization; UV, Ultraviolet; UNEP, United Nations Environment Program; U4SSC, Unified for Smart Sustainable Cities; UGI, Urban Green Infrastructure; NC, Nature conservancy; WWF, World Wide Fund; IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature; KPIs, Key performance indicators; SCRM, Sustainable climate risk management; PBS, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics; PHA, Pakistan Horticultural Authority; ESF, Ecosystem functions; EPA, Environmental Protection Agency; MSEP, Multi-stakeholder engagement procedures; GOV, Governance; ACAD, Academician.


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Appendix A

Verifying and confirming the viewpoints, knowledge, attitudes, and choices of the regional multi-stakeholder community (planning experts and community members) with relation to the potential consequences and definitions associated with the UGI, urban resilience, environmental change, and adaptation. The following four questions were added to Section B of both the expert-based assessment survey and the neighborhood-based empirical survey in order to define the notions of the aforementioned themes in light of the native geographical setting.

• “What does global warming mean for you?”

• “What does adaptability to warming temperatures mean for you?”

• “What does urban resilience mean for you?”

• “What does environment-friendly infrastructure mean for you?”

Keywords: urban forests, SDG’s, NUA, UGI, climate change

Citation: Aleha A, Zahra SM, Qureshi S, Shah S, Marri SA and Khan M (2024) Urban forests and their contribution to sustainable urban development in a global context: a case study of Multan, Pakistan. Front. Clim. 6:1275102. doi: 10.3389/fclim.2024.1275102

Received: 24 August 2023; Accepted: 25 March 2024;
Published: 23 April 2024.

Edited by:

Pau Chung Leng, University of Technology Malaysia, Malaysia

Reviewed by:

Sumra Yousuf, Bahauddin Zakariya University, Pakistan
Usman Awan, University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, Pakistan

Copyright © 2024 Aleha, Zahra, Qureshi, Shah, Marri and Khan. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Anum Aleha,