When it comes to challenges, natural threats loom large, from volcanoes and earthquakes to forest fires, flooding and landslides. And, clearly, the informal nature of so much of the development adds to the vulnerability. “So the first thing we needed to do was to plan the city’s development according to the threats,” says Jácome Polit. To direct future planning, strategy and investment, this meant identifying the most vulnerable places, in terms of buildings, people (by gender, age, disability, poverty etc) and infrastructure (such as mobility, so that the city can continue to operate during and after a flood, for instance).
Measures include improving construction processes, reinforcing existing buildings particularly in low-income areas, programmes to promote readiness in communities, a universal insurance programme and, where it is decided risks can not be mitigated, relocation.
Nature-based solutions, building on the city’s natural capital, will be part of the picture. These can help to reduce physical vulnerability, such as from landslides. They will also be used to improve the quality of public spaces, as there is a very strong ‘urban heat island’ effect in Quito, says Jácome Polit, particularly during the hot summer months.
The switch in emphasis is towards prevention rather than reacting after an event. The previous preventative measures were typically expensive and not environmentally-friendly, says Jácome Polit, so there is also a move to more pragmatic, easier to deliver and greener alternatives.
“This is all hand-in-hand, of course, with creating awareness among people,” says Jácome Polit. As the informal settlements have been built by the people themselves, the residents need awareness, knowledge and tools to implement and replicate solutions. With the metro line, there will shortly be an international call for a partner to do the urban design around it.
Social and Economic Goals
Much greater citizen engagement is a theme that runs through Quito’s resilience plan. It is a bottom-up effort, says Jácome Polit, using the existing structure of the city, so starting with neighbourhoods, which in turn make up parishes, which are then within nine administrative zones. This will allow citizens to be involved from the outset, to help set priorities and there is the aim to then link this work to, for instance, more participatory budget setting.
Other actions include generating environmental awareness; improving recycling; creating safe public spaces in the city; resilient, integrated and sustainable mobility; and reduced emissions.