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Preferences and Perception Influencing Usage of Neighborhood Public Urban Green Spaces in Fast Urbanizing Indian City

Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), Kanagawa 240-0115, Japan
Independent Researcher, Tokyo 136-0073, Japan
National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur 440015, India
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Land 2023, 12(9), 1664;
Submission received: 14 June 2023 / Revised: 24 August 2023 / Accepted: 24 August 2023 / Published: 25 August 2023
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Progress in Urbanisation Dynamics Research Ⅱ)


In rapidly expanding Indian cities, the current provisions for public urban green spaces (PUGS) falls below the minimum standards recommended by the WHO, linked with the well-being of urban dwellers. The local authorities are struggling to fulfill the supply side gap, with a disparity in PUGS provisions. Currently, the provisions focus on fulfilling the prerequisites identified by the planning agencies and do not appropriately address the urban greenspace demands. However, effective planning has been emphasized as a way to respond to the diverse, competing and changing demands of PUGS, allowing the incorporation of the needs and preferences of urban dwellers in the planning and management of PUGS to help determine their multifunctionality, usefulness, and popularity. In response, this study attempts to capture the demands of urban dwellers through local social data for neighborhood PUGS of the fast-urbanizing Nagpur. We attempt to assist local authorities in better understanding the provisions for planning and managing PUGS that can fulfil the growing PUGS needs of urban dwellers. Via a social survey of users and residents, we capture visitations, usage, activities, motives of visits, and perceptions about neighborhood PUGS characteristics. The findings highlight the determinants that influence the usage and favored activities. Urban dwellers have a strong tendency to use neighborhood “parks and gardens” due to their convenient proximity, emphasizing how crucial their location is in shaping urban residents’ engagement with these spaces. The socio-demographics shape the preference, and the locals hold negative perceptions about size, vegetation, amenities, as well as maintenance. The identified determinants (access and availability), influencing factors (socio-demographic), and the barrier to usage (negative perceptions) need prioritized attention from the local authorities to accommodate the diverse and competing demands of different sub-groups of the urban dwellers.

1. Introduction

Public urban green spaces (PUGS) are publicly owned and accessible open spaces within urban and peri-urban areas, partially or fully covered with considerable vegetation [1,2]. These areas can be human-modified with a designed or planned character or have a more natural or unplanned character [3,4]. PUGS offer significant benefits to individuals, families, and communities by promoting physical and psychological rejuvenation, fostering social cohesion, and enhancing overall well-being [5,6]. These spaces contribute to improved physical and mental health, positively impacting the surrounding environment by enhancing air and water quality. Furthermore, PUGS play a crucial role in fostering social connections, community engagement, and a sense of belonging [7,8,9]. Considering these numerous health and well-being benefits, the provision of PUGS has become increasingly important in urban planning efforts; PUGS are a promising planning tool for tackling urbanization-related issues [3,7,10]. Further, PUGS contribute to the realization of SDG 11 target 11.7, ensuring that cities are more livable, sustainable, and inclusive for all residents [11]. However, ensuring the provision of high-quality PUGS requires appropriate planning, execution, and financial resources [12].
The standards defined by regulatory planning agencies lack consistency and coordination in implementation; hence, a clearer and more comprehensive approach is recommended [7,13,14,15]. In response, several studies have emphasized effective planning as a way forward by involving diverse stakeholders, including urban residents [7,12]. Understanding the perceptions and preferences of PUGS relates to design, planning, and management [3,16,17], and hence incorporating urban residents’ interests, needs, and preferences in the planning process can help determining the multifunctionality, usefulness, and popularity of PUGS [16]. While PUGSs exist as physical environments, they undergo constant social assessments, and they are influenced by individuals’ demographics, social needs, and living environments, making the process context-dependent [18]. Thus, capturing the local social demands is linked with enhanced benefits for urban dwellers and addressing the challenges associated with urban sustainability [19,20,21].
A review by Farahani and Maller investigated the interactions between the different aspects of urban green spaces (UGS), associated perceptions, and preferences [3]. Several other studies have captured attributes that influence usage and characteristics that promote UGS visitation [22,23,24,25,26,27]. Further, the purpose of visitation is studied by authors who identified recreational values as the most appreciated [27,28,29,30,31]. However, catering to users’ diverse demands is a challenge to be achieved [32]. In addition to the characteristics and different attributes of visitation (proximity, quantity, access), studies have identified demographic and socio-economic factors as being statistically significant in influencing use and how local people perceive PUGS [13,24,26,33,34,35]. However, most of these studies have been carried out in Europe, North America, and China, while areas experiencing significant urbanization in the global South have been largely neglected [16,36,37].
Despite the majority of the world’s urban dwellers being in the global South, there is insufficient research on the preference and usage of UGS in the rapidly urbanizing cities of developing countries [4,38]. Even though the integration of local social data in PUGS planning, management, and policy-making is recognized [4,39], so far, the accessibility of such local social data is sparse, and the current provisions do not sufficiently address the urban dwellers’ perspectives in cities undergoing densification [40]. The location, design, qualities, and management of PUGS are prompted by professional assumptions that lack theoretical or empirical bases [20]. During the planning of PUGS, planners and decision-makers rely on quantitative data such as per capita UGS, or a coverage ratio within an administrative area that is devoid of spatial data, leading towards the unequal provisioning of PUGS among urban dwellers [41,42]. Limited understanding and generic approaches to usage patterns and perceptions of PUGS lead to a mismatch between public demands and their provision [16,20,43], leading toward negative perceptions, conflicting interests, undesirable activities, and abandonment [3,20]. Therefore, local social data may be accounted to better understand urban dwellers’ preferences in relation to PUGS.
With this background, this study is the first attempt to capture the local social demands of urban dwellers in a fast-urbanizing city of India through a case of PUGS in Nagpur city. Previous work in India has shown marked disparities in UGS provisions [44,45,46], indicating the need for attention towards social data to facilitate PUGS planning.
Factors like accessibility, characteristics of PUGS, and socio-demographics that influence visitations and the usage of neighborhood PUGS [22,27] have been assessed in India. This study, being the first for India, attempts to capture the urban dwellers’ demands through local social data so as to better facilitate PUGS planning by determining: (1) local preferences in the behavior of usage, preferred activities, and motives of visitation of neighborhood PUGS; (2) perceptions of urban dweller about their neighborhood PUGS characteristics.

2. Methods and Materials

2.1. Research Framework

To obtain local social data and better understand the demand, this study utilized the framework proposed by Farhani and Malller [3] to develop a research framework (shown in Figure 1). The derived framework aims to encompass several factors: (1) individual characteristics, (2) individual preferences to comprehend usage patterns and preferred activities, and (3) perceptions regarding these characteristics by assessing satisfaction levels. It is important to note that the preferences and perceptions of PUGS may differ among individuals, as each person experiences spaces uniquely [26]. Therefore, individual characteristics such as age, gender, family structure, and employment status are recognized as crucial components that are linked to both preferences and perceptions.
Preferences and perceptions provide insights into how individuals engage with PUGS, allowing for the identification of local data on preferred usage patterns and activities. Preferences represent individual choices, providing an understanding of preferred behaviors and activities. On the other hand, perceptions reflect sensory experiences of current spaces, providing insights into existing conditions, settings, safety, accessibility, vegetation, and facilities that can improve interactions and encourage visitation. Both preferences and perceptions offer different perspectives on the usage of greenspaces, with preferences directly influencing behavior and perceptions helping identify factors that can enhance usage. Simultaneously investigating both preferences and perceptions enables an interdisciplinary approach to capturing local demand and planning for future PUGS provisions.

2.2. Case Study

The research considered the case of Nagpur city (10 administrative zones), as in Figure 2, to capture the local demands of urban dwellers for PUGS. The city is one of the green cities of India; however, it is witnessing unprecedented urbanization, socio-economic and land use changes, followed by demographic increases [47,48]. In addition, the overarching focus on grey infrastructure under smart city and metro development projects is putting extra pressure on the existing PUGS. The identified deficit in recreational green spaces by the city development plan [49], resulting in supply gaps in PUGS provision [45], makes Nagpur a good case study. Despite being considered one of the green cities, the high disparity in PUGS provisions in terms of per-capita availability and accessibility [45] highlights the need to capture the local social data and aspects to understand urban dwellers’ perspectives about the relevance of the existing PUGS. The inferences from the study could guide urban planners, bureaucrats, policymakers and other relevant stakeholders to enhance the benefits delivered by the limited PUGS and natural resources to ameliorate the quality of life for city dwellers.
The city comprises ten administrative zones, which include the 136 electoral wards of Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC), as in Figure 2. In terms of its physical extent, it encompasses a land area of 217.65 square km and is inhabited by a population of 2.4 million people, as recorded in the 2011 census. With regard to the PUGSs studied, the definition by Coles and Grayson [50] is used, which considers access and function criteria to define UGS. Accordingly, the study focused on neighborhood PUGS, which are accessible, covered by vegetation and used for recreation purpose by the locals at the ward level to enhance their quality of life. The neighborhood PUGS typologies considered in the study were the four classes of recreational PUGS as identified in the city development plan (Parks and gardens, Playground, Lake, Forest) and thematic maps (refer to [45])—please refer to Supplementary Materials. The fifth class is excluded, as the quality of the water in the river flowing in Nagpur (Nag river) is deteriorated and not considered for any recreational benefits. However, the green routes (avenue plantation) and local institutional greens are included in the survey to gauge overall preferences toward accessible green spaces. As in Lahoti et al. [45], most of the neighborhood parks and gardens (PUGS) share a similar design layout, but differ in size and maintenance level. These PUGS are under the maintenance of the NMC (Nagpur Municipal Corporation) and are accessible for approximately 3 to 4 h during the day and evening. The parks and gardens feature well-maintained landscapes including mowed lawns, pruned shrubs, shady trees, and flowering plants. On the other hand, the playgrounds within these areas have compacted lands with minimal peripheral vegetation. The neighborhood PUGS generally conform to the guidelines of the Urban and Regional Development Plan Formulation Implementation (URDPFI) in India, with a typical unit area of 0.5 hectares. For further information, please refer to Lahoti et al. [45].

2.3. Data Collection and Sampling

Four trained research assistants conducted a face-to-face questionnaire survey for users and households within the city administrative boundary using Survey123 (connect for ArcGIS 10.5.1 of ESRI) in July–August 2019. A minimum sample size of 400 was suggested based on Slovin’s formula [51], while this study achieved 756 surveys. The delivery mode of the questionnaire was electronic to maximize the speed and scalability, while cutting administrative costs and data entry errors [52,53,54]. The field app allowed for local language settings (English and native language Hindi), geo-tagging, and real-time data collection [53,55]. The study used soft data for the administrative boundaries, the thematic map of neighborhood PUGS and ward-level soft data for google map interfacing as derived from previous field work on PUGS in Nagpur [45,56]. The survey uses the same data to provide a Google map interface with an administrative boundary for respondents to pinpoint their locality, and Figure 3 represents this.
To capture the local demand for neighborhood PUGS, the usage, behavior, activities performed, and motives of visitation are recorded through dichotomous and categorical questions. The questionnaire consisted of an introduction mentioning the study objective and instructions for the survey (as in Supplementary Materials); sections with questions on socio-demographics; urban dwellers’ preferences, usage of the neighborhood PUGS and city greens; satisfaction level and perception of PUGS characteristics; followed by a section on the ongoing river rejuvenation project. The study gauges satisfaction levels and perceptions about PUGS characteristics such as size, accessibility, walkability, safety, abundance, condition, facilities, and quality using a five-point Likert scale questionnaire. This paper excludes the results of the fifth and sixth sections. The framed questions in the survey arrived after the pre-test of the questionnaire in January 2019 and refer to questions from previous studies [20,57].

2.4. Data Analysis

The study employed Spearman’s correlation to determine the relationship between PUGS characteristics and satisfaction levels, which ArcGIS heat maps spatially represented (Ver. 10.5.1). Data were statistically analyzed using R (R. 3.6.1) and graphically represented using Mosaic plots. The Mosaic plots showed the relationship between individual characteristics and the dependent variables such as visit time, frequency of visits, stay-time, and preferred activities. In the plots, grey shading is used for small residual values, light blue for medium positive values, and light red for medium negative values. Dark blue and dark red are used for higher residual values. The study uses the residual between 2 and 4, representing significant Pearson residuals at “α = 0.05” and “α = 0.0001”. The blue tile communicates over-representation, indicating a higher frequency than the expected log-linear model of a proportionally equal level of responses. In contrast, the red tiles communicate under-representation and much lower frequencies to simplify data interpretation [58].

3. Results

3.1. Respondents Socio-Demographic

A low refusal rate and high willingness to participate among respondents resulted in 756 responses. The study considered 748 responses for data analysis after removing eight incomplete entries during data cleaning. Table 1 details the summary of respondents’ characteristics, including users (52%) and households (48%). Most respondents were male (56.9%), and there was a slight overrepresentation of the 15–24 age group (24.1%). The most common employment status was employed (43.5%), and the highest level of education attained was a bachelor’s degree (54.1%). Respondents above the age of 55 were underrepresented, particularly among females. The majority of respondents were employed (43.5%), followed by students (22.8%) and homemakers (18%) who use PUGS. The results can be relied on as 65% had lived in the neighborhood for over 15 years.

3.2. Preferences: Neighborhood PUGS Visitation, Preferred Typology, Visitation Time and Frequency, Stay Time

Of the surveyed respondents, 73.6% reported visiting neighborhood PUGS, while 26.4% reported not visiting them. The primary reason given for not visiting was “lack of time” (41%), followed by “inaccessibility due to distance” (30%) and “poor maintenance” (9%). The survey then continued to ask follow-up questions only to those who visited about preferred neighborhood PUGS and the ones they use, time of visit, frequency of visit, and duration of stay. The preference for maintenance by the municipal corporation was higher, such as in “Parks and Gardens” (64.3%), “Playgrounds” (16.6%), and “Lakes” (7.7%). The range of PUGS for the other neighborhoods, like “Green routes”, “Institutional greens”, and “Forest” areas, was between 4 and 7%. The usage echoes the same order; “Parks and Gardens” as the most visited (53%), followed by “Playgrounds” (10%), and the remaining greens are listed as per the preference.
Additionally, when comparing the age groups and their preferred types of neighborhood PUGS, it was found that the younger population (ages 15–24) primarily visit “Playgrounds”, followed by the green spaces of their institutions, while neighborhood “Parks and Gardens” were underrepresented. No significant difference between “Morning” and “Evening” visit times was recorded, and only 2% visited “Lake” or “Forest” areas in the “Afternoons”, as “Parks and Gardens” are closed. The data reveal that employed individuals tend to visit more in the morning, while students prefer evening, as in Figure 4a. As shown in Figure 4b, the frequency of visits indicated that many people visited neighborhood PUGS “Daily”, “Most days”, and “Once a week”. Specifically, the age groups “55–64” and “above 65” visited “Every day”, and a large proportion were retired individuals.
On the other hand, younger age groups, mainly students aged 15–24, were underrepresented in “Everyday” visits but had increased visits “Once a week”. Everyday users tend to stay more than 2 h, unlike once-a-week users who mostly stayed for 15 min to 1 h and mainly in the evening. The data show that when comparing stay time by gender, females tend to stay for 30 min to 1 h, while males tend to stay longer, for 1–2 h, as in the mosaic plot in Figure 5a. Females tend to be the “House caregiver”, and the males are mostly ‘Retiree’ individuals, as represented in the mosaic plot of employment against stay time in Figure 5b.

3.3. Preferred Activities and Motives of Visitation

Understanding the preferred activities of those surveyed is vital in comprehending how individuals utilize and value neighborhood PUGS. The questionnaire presented a list of eight activities and an open-ended option for participants to mark their activities. To obtain a more detailed understanding, the study categorized the activities into four groups, “Relaxation”, “Social”, “Physical”, and “Others”. The most popular activities as in Figure 6a are “Walking and exercise” (33%), followed by “Sit and relax” (23%). The summary of preferences, as in Figure 6b, shows “Physical” activities having the highest preference, followed by “Relaxation” and “Social” activities. “Spending leisure time with friends/family” was preferred, while “Sports activities” and “Play with child(ren)” were less popular.
Further, it was essential to understand how individuals use and assign values to neighborhood PUGS. People with different age groups, employment statuses, and educational backgrounds may assign different values and engage differently. The study tried to understand the association between an individual’s socio-demographic characteristics and preferred activities, indicating variations in usage. The age groups “15–24” and “above 65” used neighborhood PUGS for “Social” and “Relaxation” purposes (Figure 7a), while the “35–44” age group individuals for “Physical” activities with lower social engagement. The analysis of activities against employment status indicates how respondents perceive and experience neighborhood PUGS (Figure 7b). The same resonates when checked against individuals’ “Employment status”; employed individuals visit neighborhood PUGS for “Physical” activities, while the retired value neighborhood PUGS for “Relaxation” and visit to “Sit and relax”. Similarly, for students, it is a place for “Social” interactions to spend leisure time with their friends; however, they indicated a lack of sports and games facilities. The study found that the residual values were not significant when analyzing activities against gender, hence they are not discussed.

3.4. Perceived Satisfaction toward Neighborhood PUGS Characteristics

The survey asked the participants to rate their satisfaction with the neighborhood PUGS on a five-point Likert scale. The results show that 7.5% of respondents were very satisfied, 7.5% were very dissatisfied, 48% were satisfied, 37% were dissatisfied, and 10% had a neutral opinion. To understand the relationship between satisfaction level and accessibility of neighborhood PUGS, a spatial map was created as in Figure 8a,b, showing the location of the satisfied and the dissatisfied respondents and a 250 m buffer zone from the neighborhood PUGS (250 m as the recommended travel distance for the neighborhood PUGS by planning authorities). The map revealed that satisfied respondents were primarily located within the buffer zone, while most of the dissatisfied respondents were outside of the buffer zone, indicating an association of access with levels of satisfaction.
Further, the heat maps in Figure 9a–h present the individuals’ responses to the specific characteristics of their neighborhood PUGS. Most respondents agreed with statements related to the current provisions, such as the greens being too small for the population they serve (Figure 9f). Another prominent area of disagreement was maintenance (Figure 9c), followed by availability (Figure 9a) and provisions of facilities (Figure 9d). Respondents also expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of vegetation available in their neighborhood (Figure 9h). However, overall, agreement with safety was identified (Figure 9g), with some concerns in the peripheral areas. The contradictory aspect revealed through the perceived satisfaction analysis is that individuals are largely satisfied with the neighborhood PUGS’s current proximity (Figure 9f). However, access is associated with dissatisfaction with the previous questions. Further, it is important to note that “far away/not accessible” is identified as a major reason for restricting their access and refraining from visiting neighborhood PUGS for those who do not visit. Further, also important to notice here is that the respondents do not identify that the current activities do not cater to all age groups (Figure 9e), although the socio-demographic and visitation and usage patterns hint otherwise.

4. Discussion

In Nagpur, neighborhood PUGS caters to livability and improves the recreational needs of urban dwellers, which can help to uplift their quality of life. However, there are varying demands and conflicting interests due to the significant differences in the distribution of green spaces in urban areas and the supply-side shortages of 3.65 m2 of green space per person [45]. To address this issue, the planning and management of these spaces need prioritized attention on an urgent basis. The study provides valuable information based on local social data to address the shortages and conflicting demands. The empirical findings also help to guide through the influencing factors that determine and limit the usage, which can appropriately guide the local authorities to translate the limited and stressed resources into more usable PUGS in response to local demands through effective strategies and innovative solutions.

4.1. Local Preferences, Visitation, and Usage

The locals’ preferences and usages align, with neighborhood parks and gardens prioritized over the other typologies, indicating their benefits to local urban users in their everyday lives. Like the study in Finland by Tyrvainen et al., we identified neighborhood parks and gardens as highly preferred, as being well-managed and easily accessible for daily recreational and other cultural activities [27]. The same was advocated by Brugess et al., stating that people prefer local, familiar, intimate spaces, as they are part of their everyday life [59]. Perhaps, the high preference and usage of neighborhood parks and gardens can be attributed to their availability within an appropriate distance. This highlights location as a major determinant for interaction with PUGS, frequency of use, and predicting visitation [37,60]. Although, accessibility is considered a major determining factor [61], it is not considered as a limiting factor [26]. Studies have recorded higher preferences for larger PUGS over neighborhood greens [4,36,62], and a willingness to trade proximity for size [63]. Further, as a previous study identified a disparity in the provision of city greens in Nagpur [45], we also indicate the need for further investigations with regard to access and preference considering the larger city parks.
In terms of pattern of usage, the findings attest that socio-demographic factors influence visitation, stay time, visit time, and frequency of visit. Age group and employment status influences visitation, as elderly and retired individuals visit neighborhood PUGS daily and stay for a longer time, which was also attested by Sotoudehnia [64]. However, in contrast, some authors also found elderly people visiting greens less frequently [65]. The discrepancy could be due to the presence of stronger social ties, self-motivation to improve health, or religious activities associated with neighborhood PUGS in the city. Further, middle-aged employed individuals are frequent and active users; this contradicts with the findings of Neuvonen et al., who indicated that employed individuals are less likely to visit recreational places close to their homes [30]. This may have to do with and reflect the local preferences for and interests in neighborhood greens. Furthermore, elderly women’s underrepresentation indicates barriers to participation in neighborhood PUGS, which is consistent with the previous findings from other parts of the world [30,66,67]. A lower frequency of visits and less time spent by the younger age groups is worrisome and needs attention, as other studies from other parts of the world report young people as active users [68]. Local warm climatic conditions during summers, shifting priorities, and over involvement in studies and career related activities can be considered as some of the reasons for the same in the present context. Overall, it is evident that socio-demographics shape demands and reflect recreation behaviors [30,35,69,70,71].

4.2. Activities, Motives and Assigned Values

Studies have recommended understanding the activities and motives of different users to improve the design and management of existing UGS to meet the local community’s needs [29,72,73]. The study identified physical as the most popular type of activity, followed by relaxing and social activities. Studies have recorded a correlation between the presence of greenery in the neighborhood and physical activities [36,74]. People value neighborhood PUGS because it promotes physical activity, which is in agreement with previous studies carried out in other regions [26,29,75]. However, the data also reveal that the activities and motives of visitations vary in accordance with socio-demographics (age group and employment status), and this also signals towards the inadequacy of activities for certain age groups. For example, students and younger people’s motivations are social interaction over physical activities, which hints towards limited or insufficient amenities. Further, the lower availability of child(ren)-related activities signals that perhaps they do not cater to diverse demands, and the focus is on specific age groups or population. Greens are places that can attract lots of children with their parents, and this is considered as a main reason for park visitations in other contexts as well [29,71,76]. The exclusion of the needs of different age-groups has been identified as an issue in smaller green spaces lacking amenities by Reyes and Figueroa [77]. At the same time, the presence of “green gyms” and “walking tracks”, which are now available in many local parks, gardens and other greens, might have led to increased visitations by middle-aged people, implying the provision of amenities that influence activities and usage, and accordingly visitations and the related benefits.
In addition, relaxation with the motive of reducing stress and tension and social interaction are identified as key motives for the elderly, which also resonates with previous studies [26,78]. Research has shown that green spaces can have a restorative effect on psychological benefits, such as mental health, by reducing stress, tension, and depression [29,79,80].
Moreover, during the COVID-19 lockdown and pandemic period, and the related restrictions of movement, neighborhood PUGS’s multifunctionality and capacity to mitigate as well as offset some adverse psychological effects [81,82,83] further affirms their importance as places of relaxation. Students’ are motived towards vitiations for the sake of social interaction, highlighting that neighborhood PUGS are social assets, as sites for recreation as well as social mixing [84]. PUGS promote social interactions and community integration [13,85], and are often used as places to socialize with family and friends [86]. However, perhaps the smaller size and too great a focus on physical activities may act as barriers here for social interaction. Thus, to enhance usage, the different aspects of activities and motivations in relation to socio-demographics should be factored into pertinent decision-making to fulfill the diverse and competing local demands of the different subgroups of the society.

4.3. Local Perceptions and Satisfaction

The findings of this research as well previous studies indicate that the adequate provision of and accessibility to UGS in a neighborhood increases visitation and usage [30,79,87]. However, other factors such as quality of space, access to facilities, amenities as per user needs, maintenance, and safety perceptions influence usage and perceptions [4,36]. Hence, understanding the urban dwellers’ perceptions through their satisfaction with regards to characteristics should be considered important, and could help in avoiding negative perceptions that lead to the avoidance and abandonment of UGS [88,89]. The findings signal towards a high perception of safety in the city, which is primarily observed on the western side of the globe [60,90]. However, perceived safety is identified as a major barrier to use and access in other developing countries [4,70,91]. Overall, the locals have positive perceptions of safety, with few exceptions in the periphery, where it is considered as a barrier to access. Occasionally, people mentioned avoiding certain PUGS due to inappropriate behavior and issues with litter and vandalism, but this is not linked to perceived safety. The earlier findings related to the lack of activities are affirmed (though not evidently) through neutral perceptions regarding activities catering to all age groups. Further, dissatisfaction with access varies among the respondents, signaling a disparity in provisions, as was identified in the benchmark assessment [45].
The local social data identify lower satisfaction with attributes such as inadequate quantities (provision), smaller spaces (size), poor maintenance, less vegetation, and the lack of amenities. These attributes have been identified as undesirable in previous studies, leading to negative perceptions [4,88,92], hence affirm the need for the planning and management of greens, including in the studied context. Attributes such as size and quality impact visitation, with a greater preference for well-maintained and high-quality greens [61]. Further, size and vegetation are associated with activities and motivations; larger neighborhood parks can provide greater relaxation benefits compared to smaller ones, particularly in terms of perceived restoration and stress reduction [93]. Besides this, these attributes are linked to and have implications for usage; studies have indicated a correlation between size and activities (social engagement and physical activities) [94]. Moreover, lower satisfaction with amenities indicates competing demands. Considering that usability increases with the presence of more different users [95], having different amenities can attract users. Considering the association between the PUGS’s characteristics and its usage, negative perceptions could be significant determinants, and hence need to considered during panning and management.

4.4. Recommendations, Limitations and Future Research

In the city, neighborhood PUGSs serve the diverse needs and interests of different user groups, and act as a place for daily physical activities, a refuge from the city hustle, and a place fostering sociability. However, several barriers and negative perception are identified, and this should attract the attention of local authorities. A few are discussed here, with some suggestions for consideration. Firstly, considering the importance of neighborhood PUGS in the daily life of urban dwellers, access within walking distance across the city needs to be prioritized to increase visitation and usage. Access is a critical component of sustainable urban development, and is associated with SDG Target 11.7. Providing pocket parks, greenway trails, and vacant areas under the flyover can address and improve access- and quantity-related issues. Further, reviving the playgrounds in response to local demands and linking neighborhood greens through green corridors could help reduce overcrowding, and facilitate additional avenues for walkers and the active users of the PUGS. The current playground provisions, with open grounds, can be redesigned to attract younger age groups. Further, the larger city parks and institutional greens can be made more accessible and linked through dedicated cycle tracks. The provision of other greens through land pulling is recommended in peripheral areas. The revitalization of the river tributary (NAG river) offers an excellent opportunity to create a linear park in the riparian buffer zone that can connect different neighborhoods and provide various recreational and ecological benefits as well. Also, Nagpur has a lot of urban water bodies and lakes, and their buffers and peripheries can be developed in order to improve access to PUGS.
Secondly, various strategies can be employed to tackle the issue of the competing demands placed on neighborhood PUGS, such as managing the timing of access. For instance, scheduling the PUGS for use by women and children in the afternoon (though this may have limited success, considering the warm climate of Nagpur and that children attend school into late afternoon in India) can assist in arranging the competing uses of PUGS by different groups of users, and spreading them out over different periods and spaces. This can help mitigate overcrowding issues and also reduce the potential for disputes arising from shared use by individuals with differing interests. Lastly, citizens’ involvement in managing PUGS is recommended at a broader level. Active community involvement can provide valuable insights and feedback that can inform decisions about the PUGS’s design, amenities, and facilities. It can foster a sense of ownership and pride in the community, build trust and strengthen relationships between residents and local authorities. As a result, more effective communication and collaboration lead to community stewardship activities, such as planting, maintaining gardens, organizing events and activities, and monitoring usage and safety. Thus, engaging residents in the planning and management processes can make these spaces more inclusive, and this will contribute to the overall health and vitality of the community, developing ecosystem resilience.
Our knowledge and field-based experiences imply that sufficient literature containing local social data related to neighborhood PUGS in Indian cities is scant, hindering the comparison of results. However, we are sure that this study will serve as a model for rapidly urbanizing cities, offering a starting point for policy amendments through the acknowledgement of these local social data’s relevance to the planning and management of PUGS. This study could be replicated in other developing countries, cautiously and by acknowledging socio-cultural and locational differences, especially in the quickly developing regions of India, China, and Africa. Although the study included diverse participants (users and non-users), certain groups, such as the unemployed and elderly, were underrepresented. Further, due to limited time and resources, variations in usage in different seasons could not be sufficiently captured. This study was conducted before the COVID-19 lockdown, so a follow-up study after the pandemic would better reveal different perspectives on the benefits of neighborhood PUGSs when other city parks were closed, and is highly recommended. While the study yielded some interesting findings, future research should focus on specific user groups, such as economically disadvantaged individuals and children, as well as those exhibiting different socio-demographic features, such as those related to income and ethnicity. To enhance local engagement, future research with a participatory approach that can generate more site-specific and context-specific data is recommended, involving practitioners and local citizens. Further, in response to UN SDG 11.7, it is important to understand the accessibility and inclusivity of PUGSs, particularly for those groups who are low-frequency users or non-users.

5. Conclusions

This study’s findings highlight a strong inclination towards the usage of neighborhood parks and gardens, stemming from their convenient proximity; this underscores their importance in influencing the engagement of urban dwellers with such spaces. The existing neighborhood PUGSs are under pressure to serve the diverse, competing, and changing demands of urban dwellers. This study collected local social data in response, indicating that the social context influences preference, behaviors, and use patterns. Negative perceptions are also significant determinants that affect the usage of neighborhood PUGS. Developing a better understanding of these factors and attributes is important in order to plan and manage PUGS to meet the needs and demands of the local community. The findings of this study can enable local authorities to develop targeted strategies with innovative and practical solutions. Using local social data could help, in relation to directing limited resources into more usable spaces. The lack of comparative studies that enable us to validate the findings and, in many cases, identify contradictions with other research highlights the relevance of using local social data in PUGS planning, and elucidates the gap filled by the study.

Supplementary Materials

The following supporting information can be downloaded at:

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, S.A.L.; Methodology, S.A.L.; Software, S.A.L.; Validation, A.L.; Formal analysis, S.A.L.; Resources, S.D.; Data curation, S.A.L.; Writing—original draft, S.A.L.; Writing—review & editing, S.A.L.; Visualization, S.A.L.; Supervision, O.S. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research received no external funding.

Data Availability Statement

The data presented in this study are available on request from the corresponding author.


We are thankful to all the survey participants for their valuable time. We thank the research assistants Dhiraj Buradkar, Harsha Nandurkar, Divyani Shaniware, and Jasleen Kaur for their support during the fieldwork and data collection. We appreciate the support of Rakesh Kadaverugu for helping with the Mosaic plots.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. Research framework to capture the local social demand for neighborhood PUGS, through individuals’ characteristics, preference and perceptions.
Figure 1. Research framework to capture the local social demand for neighborhood PUGS, through individuals’ characteristics, preference and perceptions.
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Figure 2. Introduction to the study city Nagpur, Maharashtra, India.
Figure 2. Introduction to the study city Nagpur, Maharashtra, India.
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Figure 3. Location of individuals surveyed (triangle represents users, while the circle represents household living in the neighborhood).
Figure 3. Location of individuals surveyed (triangle represents users, while the circle represents household living in the neighborhood).
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Figure 4. Mosaic plot of visit time and frequency of visit. (a) Mosaic plot of visit time against employment. (b) Mosaic plot of the frequency of visit against age.
Figure 4. Mosaic plot of visit time and frequency of visit. (a) Mosaic plot of visit time against employment. (b) Mosaic plot of the frequency of visit against age.
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Figure 5. Mosaic plot of stay time against other socio-demographics. (a) Mosaic plot of stay time against gender. (b) Mosaic plot of stay time against employment status of respondents.
Figure 5. Mosaic plot of stay time against other socio-demographics. (a) Mosaic plot of stay time against gender. (b) Mosaic plot of stay time against employment status of respondents.
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Figure 6. Pie diagram showing activity preference (in %). (a) Individuals’ preferences towards activities. (b) Preferred activities grouped under four categories.
Figure 6. Pie diagram showing activity preference (in %). (a) Individuals’ preferences towards activities. (b) Preferred activities grouped under four categories.
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Figure 7. Mosaic plot of activity against socio-demographics. (a) Mosaic plot of preferred activities against age groups. (b) Mosaic plot of preferred activities against employment status.
Figure 7. Mosaic plot of activity against socio-demographics. (a) Mosaic plot of preferred activities against age groups. (b) Mosaic plot of preferred activities against employment status.
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Figure 8. Map showing the location of satisfied and dissatisfied respondents: (a) Map showing spatial location of respondents who are satisfied with neighborhood PUGS. (b) Map showing the location of respondents who are dissatisfied with their neighborhood PUGS.
Figure 8. Map showing the location of satisfied and dissatisfied respondents: (a) Map showing spatial location of respondents who are satisfied with neighborhood PUGS. (b) Map showing the location of respondents who are dissatisfied with their neighborhood PUGS.
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Figure 9. Heat maps of perceived satisfaction level related to neighborhood PUGS characteristic: (a) Quantity. (b) Proximity. (c) Maintenance. (d) Facility. (e) Age group. (f) Small size. (g) Safety. (h) Vegetation.
Figure 9. Heat maps of perceived satisfaction level related to neighborhood PUGS characteristic: (a) Quantity. (b) Proximity. (c) Maintenance. (d) Facility. (e) Age group. (f) Small size. (g) Safety. (h) Vegetation.
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Table 1. Summary of statistics of survey respondents.
Table 1. Summary of statistics of survey respondents.
CharacteristicNumberPercentage (%)
Respondent typeHousehold48
Age group15–2424.1
Above 6512
EducationBelow high school3.7
High school15.7
Employment statusEmployed43.5
House care giver18
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Lahoti, S.A.; Lahoti, A.; Dhyani, S.; Saito, O. Preferences and Perception Influencing Usage of Neighborhood Public Urban Green Spaces in Fast Urbanizing Indian City. Land 2023, 12, 1664.

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Lahoti SA, Lahoti A, Dhyani S, Saito O. Preferences and Perception Influencing Usage of Neighborhood Public Urban Green Spaces in Fast Urbanizing Indian City. Land. 2023; 12(9):1664.

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Lahoti, Shruti Ashish, Ashish Lahoti, Shalini Dhyani, and Osamu Saito. 2023. "Preferences and Perception Influencing Usage of Neighborhood Public Urban Green Spaces in Fast Urbanizing Indian City" Land 12, no. 9: 1664.

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