CARACAS, Saturday December 01, 2012 | Update

Caracas contrasts with greenest cities

Lack of plans, investment and political drive worsen environmental issues

Saturday December 01, 2012  12:00 AM
For every Caracas dweller to be capable of enjoying 10 square meters of green spaces (as opposed to one), cycling to work or otherwise commuting through sustainable means and expecting nothing but clean water from the tap is simply a series of utopias. Examples of how environmental issues have been deprioritized and fallen off the agenda abound. The fact that the Ministry of the Environment, instead of designing recycling strategies, is merely out to collect waste evidences how lagging policies are on this issue.

While in Argentine, Mexican or Chilean cities, mayors talk about waste reduction resulting from green initiatives, Venezuelan authorities boast about how much trash has been collected. According to Evelyn Pallota, Environmental Director for Miranda State, environmental issues "have been addressed only in words but not through actions or political will."

Research by the World Health Organization ranks Venezuela amongst the three most polluted Latin American countries, from an atmospheric perspective. The nation's emissions double the standards set by WHO regarding small particles in the atmosphere. Pallota explains that this may be witnessed through the health indicators in hospitals and the increase in asthma, bronchitis and breathing ailments.

According to the urban planning division of the Metropolitan Mayor's Office, Caracas, with its five municipalities, has 3,528 hectares (35.28 square kilometers) of areas reserved for recreation, but only 10.87% of that space has been developed. This means that only 383 hectares have some sort of leisure development. "This is like an urban prison," says Cristina Vaamonde, Director of the Venezuelan Environmental Watch.

Elice Street in Chacao Municipality, Caracas, is one of the busiest streets, not only in the country but also in all of Latin America. On a daily basis, over 75 thousand people pass by, and that number doubles and even triples on weekends, making it one of the loudest urban locations around.

During rush hour, noise volumes can reach up to 75 decibels, a figure much greater than the 65 decibels accepted by WHO.

In the city, nearly all recycling initiatives are in the hands of small non-government organizations with hardly any funding. Red tape abounds. As a result of the compulsory sale of Owens-Illinois, a series of requirements are made to drop off the glass collected by community-fostered pilot programs.

Environmental liabilities soar. Pallota believes that the city is wasting its building exteriors and roofs by not using solar energy. "No investments are being made to clean up streams or reduce greenhouse gases. El Guaire is no longer a river; it is an open-air sewage system. Las Mayas cannot be considered a plant; it is a dumpsite."

Experts agree: "As long as no political will exists, we will drift farther from improving the environment."

Translated by Félix Rojas Alva
The end of a cycle

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Brazil on March 13 to demand the ouster of embattled President Dilma Rousseff, carrying banners expressing anger at bribery scandals and economic woes. A banner read "We don't want a new Venezuela in Brazil."

fotter Estampas
fotter Estampas