Multiple Dimensions of Risk in Lima
By Christopher Yap, on 4 May 2014
Every year students from MSc Environment and Sustainable Development at the Development Planning Unit embark on a fieldtrip to a country in the global South. Supported by prior research, the fieldwork synthesises hands-on experience with the skills, concepts, and theories of environmental justice for development.
This year the research aims to understand the relations between water, risk and urban development in Lima, Peru, and how environmental injustices are produced and can be addressed, by exploring scenarios and strategies embedded in the wider socio-political, economic and ecological processes, with the potential for transformative change.
Four case studies: Cantagallo, Barrios Altos, Jose Carlos Mariátegui and Huaycán were chosen with our local partners and offer unique readings of Lima.
The first days of fieldwork have started to reveal the complex structural conditions producing and reproducing social-spatial inequalities and precarious living conditions for citizens of Barrios Altos and Cantagallo in the centre of Lima.
In Cantagallo, multiple groups, such as the indigenous Shipibo community, live in a high density settlement, directly on top of a former city dump-site. The entire district is marked for regeneration, and the community is engaged in long negotiations with the municipal authorities over their relocation. However the private company, LAMSAC, working in partnership with the municipality to manage the infrastructure megaproject, Via Parque Rimac, is also offering money to families to vacate their plots immediately. Some members of the community have already left their improvised properties, which were immediately demolished and the plots fenced off, to prevent others from taking their place.
For every family that vacates their plot during talks with the municipal authorities, the negotiating position of the remaining families is weakened. Those families that remain face a multitude of socio-environmental risks; unhygienic living conditions and tenure insecurity the most apparent.
In Barrios Altos, only a few hundred metres away from Cantagallo, residents face a different set of challenges and risks. The historic centre of Lima is characterised by its grand, dilapidated buildings. The current residents of the quintas – colonial-era buildings – some of which have lived in the area for generations and others that are new to the district, face daily risks from unstable, unsafe structures, land trafficking and forced displacement.
The central location and cultural significance of the district and the quintas has attracted multiple actors with competing intentions for the area’s regeneration. Private sector developers and municipal agencies, such as ProLima, are being pushed to find new solutions for urban regeneration.
The displacement or relocation of residents from the grand buildings is followed by the barricading of the room or building, just as the vacant plots are fenced off across the river in Cantagallo.
Meanwhile, many local private developers are building illegally, without permits, behind the UNESCO-protected facades of the quintas. But whilst the municipal authorities are aware of the problem, they lack the capacity to prevent the developments.
Of greater concern are the cases where private developers have forcibly evicted tenants, or cut water pipes to hasten the collapse of the already fragile buildings in order to acquire the land for development.
The complex reality generated by multiple actors with different interests, capacities, resources and priorities, and multi dimensional realities of risk, are manifested differently in each of the two sites, yet the residents face comparable challenges. Over the next two weeks, students will explore the nature of risk in each of the sites, and the strategies that residents and other stakeholders are adopting to challenge inequitable urban development.