TEPIC, Mexico, March 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
Reducing inequality, securing water supplies and strengthening
disaster prevention is crucial to bolster Chile’s quake-prone
capital against climate change and other hazards, Santiago's
In a new strategy to make the city more resilient, they laid
out plans this week to cut congestion and air pollution, improve
public transport and build more parks in low-income areas.
But better governance is essential to the strategy, said
Claudio Orrego, governor of the Santiago metropolitan region,
which has 34 municipal districts and mayors.
“Santiago is a city of disasters - we have had in the last
year the worst fires ever, we had two floods in the city (and)
two important water supply cuts,” said Orrego by telephone from
Santiago, which is home to more than 6.1 million people.
“All of this is due to the climate change impact on the
city, and that requires protocols, coordination and
infrastructure to cope,” he said in an interview.
The strategy, released as part of Santiago’s participation
in the 100 Resilient Cities initiative, brings together
programmes already underway in the city, one of the most unequal
in Latin America due to wide gaps between rich and poor in
housing, education and services, as well as gender inequality.
Rapid, uncoordinated urban growth has led to low-income
housing being built on the poorly connected fringes of Santiago
with inadequate infrastructure and few green spaces, said the
report, noting that around 18 percent of residents of the
greater metropolitan region live in poverty.
“We are sitting everyone at the table," said Orrego. "Be it
flooding, be it earthquakes, we’re taking an integrated approach
to the future."
With climate change expected to reduce rainfall and increase
temperatures in the area, Santiago wants to end overexploitation
of its water supply. It is developing a water fund to help
secure supplies for the city, and protect water sources such as
glaciers high in the surrounding Andes.
“Having a public-private endeavour, trying to protect in a
very holistic way all the water supply we use in the city is
something new,” said Orrego, stressing the urgency of the task.
The city's resilience plan includes measures to develop an
early warning system to lower the risk of floods and wildfires -
after a recent spate of devastating blazes reached the outskirts
of the city, blanketing it with smoke – and to strengthen
emergency relief efforts.
CRIME AND CORRUPTION
Situated in a dry, mountain valley, Santiago is likely to be
increasingly affected by problems such as urban heatwaves and
shortages of water and power, while agricultural demand for
water could exacerbate drought conditions in rural areas,
according to the report.
With the San Ramon fault line running along the edge of
city, the resilience strategy lays out plans to link emergency
response efforts and set up a system to monitor seismic
activity, while tightening building regulations and factoring
vulnerabilities into urban planning.
In the long term, the city may need to redefine its approach
to zoning and land use, taking into account transport, social
exclusion and disaster risks, said Orrego.
Michael Berkowitz, president of 100 Resilient Cities, which
is backed by The Rockefeller Foundation, said cities across
Latin America need to improve governance to stop crime,
inequality and exposure to natural hazards hampering their
“It’s understanding that if you have a safer, more equitable
city, that will make you better able to withstand the next
earthquake or the next flood,” said Berkowitz.
The perception of high corruption is hindering the growth of
public-private partnerships in the region and hobbling cities’
resilience efforts, he added.
“If they can get some of these governance, transition,
empowerment issues right, I think you could see Latin American
cities make some real progress over the next 10 or 15 years,”
(Reporting by Sophie Hares; editing by Megan Rowling. Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change,
resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights.