December 19 2012

Containing Medellin: The Development of the First Urban Green Belt in Colombia

Whenever flying into developing Latin American cities, one cannot help but notice the characteristics of the peripheries of the city. The city may be fringed by informal dwellings where evidence of infrastructure trails off as you peer further away from the city centre. Equally, it may be located within a valley where an agglomeration of communities have perched themselves on the perilously steep hillsides of the city.

The urban landscape of Medellin falls under the latter description, with informal settlements blanketing the hillsides of the city’s centre. This segregation has in the past forced the local government to try and install creative, yet costly transport initiatives:

Image provided by Government of MedellinImage provided by Government of Medellin

However, now it seems the city has recognized the unsustainable nature of assisting the phenomena of urban sprawl. This year the local government has set out a long term plan to introduce an Urban Development Green Belt that will restrict the capacity for future sprawl as well as offer locals alternative recreational areas away from the city centre. The green belt area plans to encompass cycling routes, hiking paths, as well as family recreational and leisure areas that will service Medellin’s outer barrios.

Medellin is a prime example of a Latin American city that is now being forced to invest heavily in sustainable strategies, such as the green belt, in order to provide sufficient education, sanitation, and transport to their urban barrios. With almost 80% of the population of South American now living in urban areas (projected to be 85% by 2025), contemporary and proactive approaches to urban planning are essential for these developing cities to avoid the crippling unsustainable allocation of resources that arise in servicing informal communities.

Do you know of similar examples or projects that have succeeded in preventing sprawl in Latin America?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Steven Petsinis

Steven Petsinis is an Urban Planning graduate from Melbourne, Australia. He has been involved in Urban Research and Development projects in Medellin, Colombia and Saigon, Vietnam and is currently pursuing his masters in Melbourne, Australia. His main interests lie in land use and social planning, sustainability, as well as studies involving globalization and it's effect on third world communities. He has recently spent one year travelling throughout North and South America, as well as Europe, where he has gathered material and inspiration for his upcoming blogs for The Grid.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 at 7:19 pm and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Environment, Government/Politics, Housing, Infrastructure, Land Use, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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