The term "greenbelt" refers to any area of undeveloped natural land that has been set aside near urban or developed land to provide open space, offer light recreational opportunities or contain development. The natural greenbelts along areas of Southeast
Asia’s coastlines, including the region’s mangrove forests, served as buffers and helped to prevent even greater loss of life from the December 2004 tsunami.
Greenbelts in and around urban areas have probably not saved any lives, but they are important nonetheless to the ecological health of any given region. The various plants and trees in greenbelts serve as organic sponges for various forms of pollution, and
as storehouses of carbon dioxide to help offset global warming.
Greenbelts are also important to help urban dwellers feel more connected to nature. Dr. S.C. Sharma of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in India believes that all cities should "earmark certain areas for the development of greenbelts to
bring life and color to the cement concrete jungle and a healthy environment to the urbanities."
Greenbelts are also important in efforts to limit sprawl, which is the tendency for cities to spread out and encroach on rural lands and wildlife habitat.
The concept has also caught on in U.S and Canada, with cities adopting mandates for the creation of greenbelts to combat sprawl. Urban greenbelts can also be found in and around larger cities in Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The green belt concept has even spread to rural areas, such as in East Africa. Womens’ rights and environmental activist Wangari Maathai launched the Green Belt Movement in Kenya in 1977 as a grassroots tree-planting program to address the challenges of
deforestation, soil erosion and lack of water there. To date, her organization has overseen the planting of 40 million trees across Africa. In 2004 Maathai was the first environmentalist to be awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Why "peace?" "There
can be no peace without equitable development and there can be no development without sustainable management of the environment in a democratic and peaceful space," said Maathai in her acceptance speech.
Source:E-the Environmental magazine