Green cities for better quality of life

Project description

Title: Biodiver_City San José – establishment of interurban biocorridors
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU)
Country: Costa Rica
Lead executing agency: Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía (MINAE)
Overall term: 2018 to 2021

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Context

The San José metropolitan area (Gran Área Metropolitana, GAM) is the largest urban agglomeration in Costa Rica. It is home to 2.8 million people and has the highest population density in the country, with a rising trend.

Urban development is poorly controlled, resulting in correspondingly high economic, social and ecological costs. Urban ecosystems in particular are increasingly unable to compensate population growth: Air quality, potable water supply, water absorption capacity and climate regulation are affected to an increasing extent. Negative effects on the well-being of the urban population due to a lack of green spaces are already noticeable. More and more people are suffering from noise, air and water pollution, flooding and the emergence of heat islands. Climate change is further exacerbating the situation. 

In response to these challenges, the first interurban biocorridors were planned along major river routes. They are part of a large network of natural and semi-natural green spaces in and around the region and are interconnected by green zones such as city parks, tree-lined streets and railway lines as well as green traffic islands. Urban green spaces and interurban biocorridors provide essential benefits for the population. The aim is to increase urban resilience to climate change.

However, biocorridors are threatened by deforestation, illegal settlements and illegally dumped waste. In some cases toxic substances find their way into water and soil. Urban expansion further reduces green areas and seals the soil. In addition, water is polluted by industrial and domestic wastewater. 

The Ministry of Environment and Energy (Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, MINAE), together with its operational arm, the National System of Conservation Areas (Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación, SINAC), has the mandate to support the creation and management of urban biocorridors and promote their benefits for the urban population. This is stipulated in the National Biocorridor Programme (Programa Nacional de Áreas de Conservación, PNCB). The approach requires technical and legal concepts, tools and effective financial mechanisms for urban planning. In addition, social skills (soft skills), technical as well as methodological skills are needed to promote planning, dialogue and coordination processes with different stakeholders.

Objective

Public authorities, civil society initiatives and the private sector help ensure that natural and semi-natural urban green spaces are well connected. The region is better adapted to the consequences of climate change.

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Approach

The project advises the Government of Costa Rica and other partners in three strategic fields. It supports improvements in the political, conceptual and methodological framework for urban planning, while recognising the benefits of urban ecosystems. The dialogue with all stakeholders will be strengthened. In addition, guidelines, procedures and instruments are being developed.

The project also strengthens the competencies for planning and implementing strategic flagship measures. Support for SINAC and the local authorities will improve the coordination of local committee platforms in the biocorridors of Río Torres and Río María Aguilar. The local committees are also directly advised by the project in areas such as planning, coordination and implementation.

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In addition, the project promotes and uses instruments for communication and knowledge management. The aim is to share and disseminate experiences. Both decision-makers and the population are sensitised to the conservation of urban ecosystems and the impact of biocorridors on the quality of life.

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