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Asunto:[encuentrohumboldt] 31/04 - Intermediate Cities and Aspects of Urban Sustainability in the Andean Region
Fecha:Domingo, 15 de Febrero, 2004  18:11:37 (-0300)
Autor:Humboldt <humboldt>


Intermediate Cities and Aspects of

Urban Sustainability in the Andean Region

Christoph Stadel

Salzburg, Austria


Although most Latin American countries are still characterized by an urban primacy of large metropolitan centers, in many cases a shift in the most pronounced relative growth dynamics from the metropolises to medium-sized cities can be observed today. This may have been the result of the negative consequences of the metropolization, or of less attractive economics of scale. It may also be a consequence of decentralization efforts of governments and of new economic potentials of non-primate cities and of a perceived higher quality of life in these urban centers.

Taking into account the newly recognized importance and potentials ofnon-metropolitan centers, the author of this paper has coordinated during the last two years the international research program ALFA-GEORED I and II, largely supported by the European Commission, which dealt with the growth processes, urban structures and urban sustainability aspects of selected medium-sized cities in Andean countries. In addition to participating universities in Austria (Salzburg and Innsbruck), Germany (Marburg), Spain (Salamanca and Barcelona), institutions in Colombia (Manizales), Ecuador (Quito), Peru (Lima) and Chile (Santiago, Valdivia, Temuco) participated in the research network. In a series of workshops in Lima, Manizales, Valdivia, Salzburg and Innsbruck, the participants placed a focus on the cities of Manizales, Colombia, Cuenca, Ecuador, Cajamarca, Peru and Valdivia and Temuco, Chile to examine dimensions, parameters, potentials of and constraints for urban sustainability. The results of these studies will be published next year in a special volume of the journal 'Espacio y Desarrollo' in Lima.

Compared to other disciplines and regions, the concept of sustainability, applied to urban areas has only recently received greater attention. Within the context of cities in the Andean realm, it is evident that urban centers are powerful agents of environmental transformation, of ecological degradation, and of socio-economic stress which are major counteractive forces to urban sustainability and are threats to the individual and collective quality of life of their inhabitants. Major constraints of and barriers to a sustainable environment and urban life are the multiple dimensions of poverty and marginality; it has become evident, that the environmental conditions and the level of socio-economic well-being reach their most pronounced stages of non-sustainability in the barrios of the urban poor.

Thus the principal target groups and target areas towards a sustainable development of cities have to be the urban poor and the urban marginal settlements. Strategies towards an urban sustainability are not limited to measures simply responding to and alleviating environmental and socio-economic problems and deficiencies. They must be complemented by a use and mobilization of the local and regional natural and human resources. This does require a strengthening of the cultural identity of the urban people and an individual and of the collective 'sense of place' and attachment to their community. Only on the basis of this 'conscientización' the processes of a 'capacitación' and empowerment towards a better urban future can begin to unfold. While the reliance upon and the mobilization of the intrinsic resources and potentials appear to be paramount in attaining urban sustainability, the extrinsic political, economic and social factors and processes must support or at least not be counterproductive to the local 'patrimonio urbano', to the socio-economic viability and potential and to a move towards greater decentralization, local empowerment and autonomy.

Thus, the concept and the objectives of and the strategies toward urban sustainability are characterized by many interrelated aspects and parameters; they affect and need to be supported by all segments of the urban society; they have spatial impacts at various scales ranging from the micro-level of small barrios to the wider urban region; and they include a time horizon spanning from a concern of preserving valuable cultural traditions, to meeting the basic needs of the current population, to assuring a future healthy environment and quality of life.

Resumen de la conferencia dictada durante el Primer Encuentro Internacional Humboldt. Buenos Aires, Argentina. Noviembre de 1999.