San Salvador, January 11th (IPS) – Throughout its history, San Salvador has faced the threat of landslides – mud and rocks sliding down the slopes of the volcano that founded the city at its feet in 1525.
The soil on these steep slopes failed to absorb all the rainwater, and as in the snowball effect, the water gradually removes parts of the land until it results in mudslides that cause death and devastation in the El Salvador’s capital and neighboring cities and suburbs.
In September 1982, a landslide killed 500 people in the Montebello housing project, northwest of the capital.
The most recent incident occurred on Oct.29 when a landslide from the top of a volcano buried several homes in impoverished communities near Negaba, north of San Salvador, killing nine people.
Because of the permanent danger, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), together with local organizations, is implementing a City Adapt project on the slopes of this 1893-meter-high mountain.
The project seeks to reduce vulnerability in the region, which has increased as a result of climate change, with more intense and frequent rainfall.
So far, 29 farms are part of the project, and have adopted measures to improve infiltration and prevent erosion, creating live and dead barriers, infiltration trenches between coffee plants and tanks to collect excess rainwater.
Excess water not only causes landslides, it also causes floods on the southern side of San Salvador, whose metropolitan area is home to 1.8 million people – 27 percent of this small Central American country of 6.7 million.
The 29 farms represent a total of 423 hectares of land in which the measures were implemented, and it is also planned to restore 1,150 hectares of forest and coffee plantations, to turn San Salvador into a sponge city, according to the United Nations Environment Program.
The City Adapt project has reduced flood risks for nearly 16,000 people and is expected to reach an estimated 115,000 by 2022.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, initiatives to turn vulnerable urban areas into spongy cities are also underway in Xalapa, Mexico, and Kingston, Jamaica.
For more information, read on This IPSNEWS article.
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