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There is increasing evidence for a positive relation between the amount of green space in the living environment, people’s health and their well-being. The Bekkersdal Township was founded in 1945 as a mining community. As the mines in the area closed down, unemployment grew and a new informal township was established with the concomitant health, other socio-economic issues and a lack of green space in the immediate environment. This article addresses the following question: ‘Do green spaces matter in this specific socio-economic environment?’ The participants consisted of 520 residents of the informal settlement section of Bekkersdal who completed a questionnaire with the assistance of trained fieldworkers. The results revealed that although the residents generally have positive feelings concerning their natural environment, in particular with regard to the vegetable gardens and open areas, environmental risks, i.e. dust, noise, litter and polluted water sources affect them considerably. Vegetable gardens are popular as they also serve as a food source in this underprivileged environment. The participants also showed a great affinity for natural features i.e. trees and open areas. Research from similar surroundings suggested various positive effects thereof on the residents. This study suggests that Bekkersdal, although impoverished and plagued with many adversities, has the potential to add value to the living conditions of residents by exploring and cultivating the existing green spaces.This includes incentive-driven organised environmental activities and initiatives such as clean-up operations, recycling, communal food- and medicinal gardens, and training to establish and maintain such initiatives.
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