Latin America is better known for its natural highlights with some of the most pristine ecosystems of the earth found here. On the contrary, the continent is facing some of the most critical environmental threats with deforestation being the biggest barrier to eco-friendly development.
If we talk about the global climate change impact, Latin America is bearing extreme impact. In recent years, millions have been affected by extreme climatic events including earthquake, hurricanes, drought and flash flooding. Harvest failures have lead to a food crisis in a number of countries. All this has lead Latin American nations to persistently find better solutions to fight climate change while providing clean energy and producing adequate food.
Among all, the best performers have been Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay. Furthermore, Argentina and Brazil are expected to become the foremost food producers of the globe by 2050. Their environmental challenges and solutions are very much regarded as international issues.
Hence, we have picked up Argentina and are ready to explore some of the exciting smart initiatives happening in the capital and the biggest city in the country – Buenos Aires.
The Early Initiatives of Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is one of the first cities to become a part of the global C40 network. However, before even becoming a part of the network and committing towards the Paris Agreement in 2015, it came up with some of the inspiring smart initiatives.
One of the smart initiatives was the development of an efficient bus rapid transit solution using the city’s existing infrastructure.
Argentina is a country where the public transportation systems are operated by the federal government. The nation had witnessed a decade of poor service and inefficiency on many routes due to deregulation and state subsidies.
Going forward, Buenos Aires came up with a solution in the form of a well-functioning BRT system incorporated into the existing bus infrastructure. Although the city was unable to transform the system completely, it was successful in satisfying the needs of citizens while meeting the political demands.
60% of people (about three million commuters) in Buenos Aires rely on public transportation. However, the city’s public transit system controlled by the federal government was unable to meet the needs of the people. So, in 2011, the city launched the first phase of the BRT – Metrobus which transforms existing bus routes into highly efficient dedicated BRT lanes. These lanes are equipped with standard elevated platforms, faster boarding process and more convenient and comfortable bus stop. The concept witnessed impressive results in a span of four years.
The average travel time has reduced by 50% and the number of bus stop has increased from 180 to 220. The central lanes which were dominated by cars are today exclusively reserved for 11 bus lines with a dedicated infrastructure for safe access by pedestrians. The new BRT system has also improved air quality. The average distance between bus stops is 400 meters which eliminate the need for the buses’ starts and stops and sudden braking leading to the reduction of harmful emissions and fuel consumption.
The Most Pedestrian-friendly City In Argentina
Buenos Aires increased the number of bicycle lanes and sidewalk space which made the city the most pedestrian and bicycle-friendly city in the country.
Previously, the city faced problems like traffic congestion due to the increasing number of vehicles and lack of safety from bicyclists and pedestrians. This situation worsened air pollution.
Hence, the city introduced the Health Mobility project that focused on making streets a safe place for bicyclists and pedestrians. As a part of the project, the city limited the number of cars on the road and encouraged walking and bicycling. This was seen as a paradigm shift as the city began giving priority to people before vehicles.
As a result, the city reclaimed 7,735 m2 to widen sidewalks and redesigned intersections to curb vehicle speed to ensure safe crossings. A network of the on-street bike lane was constructed which includes a 140 km of bi-directional lanes separated by a physical cors from cars to increase protection. In addition, Buenos Aires also launched a bike-sharing system as a means to encourage citizens to opt for healthier commute option.
The Healthy Mobility Project is leading to a cleaner environment. Travelling by car has reduced which otherwise would lead to 152 grams of CO2 per km. Previously, 0.4% of trips in the city were made by bicycle which reached 3.5% in 2015.
Fighting The Food Challenge
In the yesteryears, about 16 million tonnes of food was thrown away every year in Argentina while 32% of the population was living below the poverty line. Hence, Buenos Aires introduced a source-based strategy to fight the increasing challenges of food waste and food shortage by keeping households, schools and restaurants as targets. The city began understanding the significance and rights of waste-pickers and processing municipal waste in a sustainable manner. Eventually, it reduced the food waste going to landfill.
Recently, Buenos Aires embraced a new strategy to change the citizen attitude towards food waste. The city started working with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation by involving primary schools. It is working towards spreading education regarding the best practice to reduce food waste and tackle food shortage. The education campaign even focuses on restaurants and communities where workshops are held to engage citizens.
Recently, the University of Bologna conducted a one-of-its-kind survey in Latin America on food waste in Buenos Aires. Going ahead, the city aims to use the survey results as a starting point to curb food waste and determine how surplus food can feed the poor.
Reducing food waste in landfills leads to decreased emissions of Co2 and methane produced through fermentation.
Educating The Youth
Buenos Aires is aiming to tackle its some of the biggest challenges related to climate change which include urbanisation; air and water pollution, especially in underprivileged neighbourhoods.
The Green Schools Program is another inspiring initiative led by the city that envisions socioeconomic equalities and boosts in climate resilience.
The city’s Green Schools Program aims at educating low-income youth with waste management and urban gardening skills. The program’s four sustainability themes include integrated waste management, environmental health, climate change, and renewable energy and energy efficiency. It offers direct learning opportunities for students and strategies to improve teaching methods for environmental awareness. The program has been achieving great results since inception.
In 2016, over 588,000 students and 2,500 schools participated in the Green Schools Program with more than 16,000 supervisors, teachers, managers and assistants trained under Green School Program principles.
One-fourth of the program’s resources are reserved for poorer southern neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires. This is to make sure socioeconomic differences do not affect environmental education.
Furthermore, the program has promoted the creation of hydroponics gardens at schools that are situated near a polluted river called Mantaza. This is being practised to prevent the heavily contaminated soil of the area and enabling students to have access to healthy and fresh food. Besides, the initiative also teaches the importance of safe waste disposal and gardening practices.
The Green Schools Program has led to renewable energy installations in 35 schools with six schools claiming of having green roofs. The initiative has also resulted in reduced expense in electricity and water – showing that the youth is understanding the importance of it. And of course, with the program, the youth is being nurtured with safe and healthy food.
Recently, Buenos Aires developed an Environmental Park that has the capability to process demolition and construction, pruning, organic and plastic waste, minimising waste ending up in landfills.