Puebla is Mexico’s second largest city, with 3.2m inhabitants over 700 sq km / 270 sq miles. It sits in a high altiplano, surrounded by volcano mountain ranges including Popcatepetl (at 5,426m / 17,802 ft one of the largest active volcanoes into the world) and the dormant La Malinche (4,440m / 14,567 ft). It was an early planned colonial city, recognised by UNESCO World Heritage Site status for its historic city centre.
However having experience significant rapid industrial-driven expansion and unplanned peripheral urban sprawl development, the city now has major environmental issues which are degrading the quality of the environment and quality of life for residents. Therefore in 2016 the City of Puebla has commissioned an international panel of experts, coordinated by the International Urban Development Association (INTA), to explore opportunities arising from the city’s new Strategic Spatial Development Plan.
A initial mission of 12 experts from South America, North America and Europe, including Kerri Farnsworth, undertook an intensive evaluation of the city in 2016. In the summer of 2017 a second expert panel was convened to focus in particular on 2 aspects: the currently heavily-polluted ecosystem of the city’s main river, el Rio Atoyac, and its role in urban regeneration; and building positive citizen engagement framework and tools for the city.
Both missions included intense programmes of analysis, interviews, site visits, workshops and community engagement activities, all conducted in Spanish. An extensive written evaluation report prepared by the team was published after each mission (published in Spanish, French and English) , including recommendations for short-, medium- and long-term implementation.
The City of Puebla has already implemented many of the recommendations made in the first report, and is in the process of implementation specific actions relating to the River Atoyac/Rio Atoyac from the INTA mission in the summer of 2017. Further commissions to support city and regional governmental agencies are under discussion.