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:
- Communa 13 Escalators: Provided a safer and more direct form of access for residents who reside along the western hillsides of Medellin;
- Metrocable: Gave similar access benefits to the residents on the eastern hillsides, as well as providing access to Parque Arvi and Biblioteca España.
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.