1.1. Urbanization in the regional context
1.2. Social and environmental outcomes of urbanization in Latin America
1.3. Objectives of the case study
Latin America shares with the rest of the developing world a pattern of accelerated and largely unplanned urbanization during this century. The process of urbanization, however, has occurred earlier in this than in other developing regions. Central and South America and the Caribbean can today claim an urban population of 72%, greatly exceeding Africa's urbanization level of 34%, and the 33% urban population of South Asia (excluding Japan) (Lowe, 1991). Furthermore, as of 1990, three of the top ten megacities on earth were in Latin America, with populations of 11.5 million in Buenos Aires, 17.4 million in São Paolo and over 20 million inhabitants in Mexico City (World Bank, 1995).
As in other regions of the world, a high level of migration from rural areas has been principally responsible for the enormous population growth of modern cities in Latin America (Cubitt, 1988). In recent years, natural population increase within cities is also emerging as a significant driving force throughout the region (Kahnert, 1987; Linn, 1983).
The rapid growth of the urban population and the physical expansion of cities in every country of the region have had mixed outcomes for the human population, as well as the natural environment of Latin American countries. Some social indicators such as life expectancy, educational levels and per capita income are generally higher among urban residents than among their rural compatriots. For example, human populations of urban and peri-urban areas suffer from severe housing shortages, underemployment, lack of basic services, health problems, and breakdown of family and social norms. Despite the often harsh reality of the city, however, the population of urban areas continues to grow, suggesting that even the sometimes miserable conditions offered by urban life are more appealing to many people than impoverished rural livelihoods (Hardoy et al., 1992).
In terms of environmental impacts, Latin American cities also present a mixed picture. As in urban areas everywhere, it may be argued that the high concentration of large numbers of people reduces the extent of land devoted to settlement and concentrates waste generation and resource consumption, thus making mitigation easier to deal with. On the other hand, the intensity of environmental impacts of urbanization can be extremely high relative to most rural land uses. Cities of Latin America are like others in that their natural cycles are severely altered, their biological diversity is diminished and they require huge external inputs in order to be sustained (Platt et al., 1993). Poverty contributes to degradation of metropolitan ecosystems while environmental planning and management of urban areas has been typically underemphasized, so that contaminated air and water, devegetation and unstable soils are also prevalent in these cities (Leitmann, 1993). Finally, many impacts of urban areas extend well beyond city boundaries into both the near and distant peripheral areas serving the urban core, although these impacts are largely invisible to many urban policymakers. Clearly many of the social conditions cited above exist as both causes and effects of the state of the natural resources, environmental quality or other aspects of "nature" present in the metropolitan region.
Urban environmental quality has received increasing attention in recent years in Latin America as elsewhere, as the implications of urbanization for the future of human populations as well as for the environment in general become more obvious. Traditional dominant concerns about industrial contamination, air and water pollution, water supply, waste management and human health and sanitation in the city ("brown" or "grey" issues) are being supplemented by more recent (although still secondary) ecosystem concerns concerning urban vegetation, soils, wildlife, micro-organisms and open spaces ("green" issues) in the public agendas of municipalities, as well as in the actions of private actors within the community. Within this latter set of "green" issues, urban and peri-urban forestry has been an emerging focal point for the initiatives of communities and public officials alike.
This case study examines the above issues for one Latin American city: Quito, Ecuador. Although urban and peri-urban forestry will be the main focus, forestry will be considered in the broader ecosystem and social context of the entire metropolitan area, or the urban socio-ecosystem.
This case study has the following objectives:
· to evaluate the current bio-physical and social aspects of the urban forest ecosystem in the Quito metropolitan area;
· to discuss the potential for urban and peri-urban forestry activities in the Quito metropolitan area;
· to describe past and present human interventions affecting the urban forest ecosystem of the metropolitan region, and recommend areas for improvement.