This article features commentary on AQ’s Top 5 Urban Visionaries: Jhony Fernando Fernández, and appears in our recent print issue on how to make Latin American cities better places to live and work.
Green areas, such as the wetlands near Cali where Jhony works, offer city dwellers and tourists more than just spaces to enjoy themselves. They host wildlife, rid the air of pollution, and offer drainage in the case of flooding. Parks are simply synonymous with urban well-being. When it comes to green spaces, however, Latin America scores well below the average for most Northern European cities, which boast up to 540 square feet per resident. In comparison, some Central American cities have under 21 square feet of green space for every resident. Worse still, what green spaces exist are often dispersed unequally. In wealthier neighborhoods, there is often a park within walking distance, while residents of poorer areas must take public transportation to enjoy green spaces. But that is changing. Over the past few years, urban development projects have called for more green areas. For instance, there is the transformation of Villa 31 in Buenos Aires, a project that will provide a deprived neighborhood with new recreational areas in addition to better housing and infrastructure. Other examples include the coastal development in Panama City that includes sprawling green spaces, and a project to clean up a waterway near a slum in Manaus, Brazil.
Terraza is the infrastructure coordinator of the IDB’s Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initative.