Van der Tas helps manage AKTC’s diverse portfolio of park and garden initiatives, seven of which are in six cities in developing countries, including Bamako, Cairo, Delhi, Kabul, Khorog and Zanzibar. In these cities, rapid growth coupled with poor city planning has resulted in the decline of green spaces.
“Too often in recent years, urban architecture—under pressure from urbanising rural populations, greater human longevity and shrinking budgets—has neglected the importance of open spaces in a healthy city landscape,” said His Highness the Aga Khan at the inauguration of the Aga Khan Park in Toronto in 2015. “We keep crowding more buildings into dense concentrations while short-changing the enormous impact that well designed open spaces—green spaces—can have on the quality of urban life.”
From Bamako to Delhi, AKTC’s parks and gardens have emerged as cultural hubs, uniting communities for plays and festivals, and providing safe spaces for women and children. Such revitalization projects have also had tangible economic benefits.
In Tajikistan, which had few public gathering places despite increasing stability in recent decades, the revitalization of Khorog Park—the city’s main green space—provided a much-needed venue for recreation and community events. The project also created 65 local jobs.
In Zanzibar, AKTC undertook a revitalization of Forodhani Park in the historical Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site that reflects influences from the Arab, Indian and European marine trade. Through this restoration, AKTC preserved important Muslim heritage and provided a boost for tourism, the foundation of the local economy.