Does the Health Sector seriously give a thought about Green Space?
Recently, I got an opportunity to do a project in a hospital in Gujarat. Special efforts will be given in the hospital space for alternative treatment of patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s. Thus, helping them in their effort, I set up an Oxygen Park on the campus of the hospital. Before we go in to the details of Oxygen Park let us understand what MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and Parkinson’s diseases are. So far there is no cure for both these medical conditions. Hence, the patients have to face these conditions throughout their life. It is necessary that the morale of such affected people remains high. However, how can we keep the patients morale high? To begin with the family of such individuals need to develop patience and deep concern with them. If the family and relatives do not show their compassion and understanding towards them, their lives turn in to hell.
Hence, keeping these patients away from depressing environment and boosting their morale is a must. And how can we keep them away from depression? Wherein, the busy chaotic and polluted lives of the city do not provide them space to relax and unwind. Be it the patients of MS (Multiple Sclerosis) or Parkinson’s or suffering from any other serious and chronic ailments. How can we help them in their plight? So, I decided to find a way out of this situation. It was decided that in a creative and calculative way we will increase the green space in the hospital arena. To tranform the small space in the hospital into a green paradise, that will give mental peace to the victims of these diseases.
In this project, I made two small pockets of oxygen park and both of these were filled with oxygen bomber plants in close vicinity to one another and to beautify the front row, flower plants of different colours like, yellow, red, white and pink adorn the lines. Looking at which the patients get a smile and positivity on their face and oxygen bomber plants emit pure oxygen. Eventually, the plants will form a green screen detaching the area from a busy road with a lot of public transportation. Not only that we have added a lot of feeder’s, nests and water provision for birds at different locations in the oxygen park. Due to the greenery in the small pocket, we will be able to attract and host a lot of colorful butterflies, bees, birds and squirrels. Again because of the presence and visit of the butterflies, squirels and birds playing and chirping there will be a very positive atmosphere for the patients, increasing their mental peace and joy.
This project was close to my heart. Because, through this, the patients who currently have not cure or alternative treatment will get a mental peace which will postively impact their physical health too. I have named this Oxygen Park “Atmavan”, a forest where the patients would be able to interact with their inner self and enjoy their own company with the support of nature. However, after doing this project, one thing keeps nagging me, that, so far the health sector has not very keenly associated or seriously thought and given importance to nature. Now, it is high time, that this sector takes up nature and healing through nature its priority.
Further in this matter, If we look at the numbers, a survey in UK states that 45% people accepted that in the fear of Corona pandemic and worry of their financial issues, they found solace and peace in nature and green spaces. Whereas an American survey states that Green Space are not only used to beautify the city’s landscape, however it reduces the stress levels and increases the quality of sleep pattern in the populace.Hence it has a overall positive impact on life cycle of humans. Now If we relate this to the patients, they do require proper sleep and if their sleeping patterns are improved, they get proper rests than they will heal faster.
There was an interesting research done by University of Stanford. They studied the psychological and neurological systems of two groups. Out of this one group was sent to forest lands and green country side whereas, the second group was sent on 4 lane highways – a concrete jungle. Both the group were assigned a similar activity for 90 minutes. Before giving them the task their psychological and neurological conditions were measured. Which was alike for both the groups. Then after 90 minutes of the assigned activity their psychological and neurological conditions were rechecked. The group which was amongst nature had no negative emotions or almost nil compared to the other group. The group with nature clearly showed signs of positivity and happiness even while doing the task assigned.
Medical Science also accepts the postive benefits of Eco-therapy. It is a proven fact that in therapy if a patient spends longer duration with nature his stress, anxiety and depression levels decrease. In fact, Eco-therapy also claims that patients who feel that they are helpless and have lost hope of life and whose morale is very low, these people when treated with Eco-therapy have proven that the level of their self-esteem and morale is boosted and they no longer feel helpless.
It isn’t that Medical Sector do not have a model in this direction. Singapore has a pure and unique model in this aspect. The “KTPH” Khoo Teck Puat Hospital has a futuristic Green Space which has garnered attention from World over. This hospital has incorporated “Sight”, “Smell”, “Diversity” and “Community” in its infrastructure. All these factors solely represent Nature. Where they have beautiful plants and artificial water bodies for eyes to behold which relates to “Sight”, on the other hand by selecting some exceptional scented plants they have covered the aspect of “Smell” also. With sounds of water falls, and the chirping of birds and flying of butterflies they have kept biodiversity alive. Not only the patients but the common man too can enjoy a cup of coffee in the serene environment and green space in between the city thus, completing the “Community” factor of infrastructure. In short this hospital has accepted that nature very importantly supports healing and modern medical sciences have also proved the same.
Other than this, we can also count the psychological and neurological and physical impacts of nature. Though. The issue is that, the green space within our cities are reducing rapidly. With the pollution and climate change is at its peak the diseases are increasing with each passing day, and with the lowest per head tree count in the world. And with most of the green space in the cities uselessly planted with non-native trees. In the given times can the Urban Health Sector think about Green Space with seriousness? When the municipality of cities themselves are turning a blind eye to this and where the health sector which has become a part of corporate world; focussing on Green Space is like dreaming during day time.
Amongst this confusion and fight for green space, there are some outstanding doctors and hospitals who not only care for their practices but also gives proper health care to their patients. Only because of them environment lovers like us get an invitation to make oxygen parks and thus giving priority to nature in the overall healing of their patients.
By Viral Desai
(The author is a known environmentalist and the Pioneer of Satyagraha Against Pollution movement.)