GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE to reducE flood vulnerability in Voluntad de Dios, Guayaquil, Ecuador

By Ricardo da Cruz e Sousa, 2018.

Many cities of the coast of Ecuador occupy flood prone areas. With expected increases in extreme climate events due to climate change, these cities will experience greater property damage, social conflict, and risk to health and life safety.

For decades, cities managed floods by building costly flood protection infrastructure, such as culverts or levees. However, research as shown these traditional solutions have negative impacts on the environment and are too costly for most cities in the global south. This is why, in developed countries, there has been a paradigm shift regarding flood protection. The idea is to accommodate floods instead of controlling them and use green infrastructure that works with natural processes to reduce vulnerability while improving ecosystem health. Green infrastructure has been implemented with successful results, for instance, in Europe and North America. Unfortunately, research about green infrastructure in Latin America is limited and more theoretical than applied. Green infrastructure can be a cost-effective solution needed to reduce flood vulnerability, especially in informal or semi-informal settlements of the coast, which commonly present the greatest risk.

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This project will use the community of Voluntad de Dios as a case study to develop a community-based green infrastructure strategy to reduce flood vulnerability and carry multi-benefits in coastal cities of Ecuador. Voluntad de Dios is one of the communities of Monte Sinaí, an informal settlement of 300,000 people northwest of Guayaquil. It is one of the most flood-prone areas of the country. International Watershed Partners is coordinating a team of consultants working with the community to analyse flood risk, raise environmental awareness, design and build the first green infrastructure project of the region. Long-term monitoring will evaluate the project’s success on reducing flood vulnerability and other benefits to the environment and quality of life of the community.

 With the help of social workers from Hogar de Cristo, IWP started working with the community in November 2015.

With the help of social workers from Hogar de Cristo, IWP started working with the community in November 2015.

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 IWP's consultant specialists and volunteers made several visits to the study area, always guided by community members and their leaders.

IWP's consultant specialists and volunteers made several visits to the study area, always guided by community members and their leaders.

 Five community workshops were carried between 2016 and 2017 to reach a design master plan for the area.

Five community workshops were carried between 2016 and 2017 to reach a design master plan for the area.

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 During visits it became clear how green spaces were used and appreciated. The creek is the only green space of the community of Voluntad de Dios and attracts people from all the surrounding areas for its recreational and bioclimatic benefits. 

During visits it became clear how green spaces were used and appreciated. The creek is the only green space of the community of Voluntad de Dios and attracts people from all the surrounding areas for its recreational and bioclimatic benefits. 

 Lead by IWP's consultant specialists and volunteers, the community developed their own green infrastructure action plan.

Lead by IWP's consultant specialists and volunteers, the community developed their own green infrastructure action plan.

 These actions were discussed, prioritized and distributed throughout the study area.

These actions were discussed, prioritized and distributed throughout the study area.

 Simultaneously, IWP's consultant specialists and volunteers evaluated existing risk conditions and proposed alternative green solutions.

Simultaneously, IWP's consultant specialists and volunteers evaluated existing risk conditions and proposed alternative green solutions.

 The results were later presented and discussed again to reach a design master plan.

The results were later presented and discussed again to reach a design master plan.

 Children are excited to see their new neighborhood!

Children are excited to see their new neighborhood!

 IWP is thrilled by the experience of working closely with such an enthusiastic community in the first green infrastructure project of Ecuador.

IWP is thrilled by the experience of working closely with such an enthusiastic community in the first green infrastructure project of Ecuador.