Dialog in Habitat Jam

The presentation of "IS BUENOS AIRES METROPOLITAN AREA (AMBA) PREPARED TO BE ADAPTED TO THE GLOBAL CLIMATIC CHANGE?", try to introduce the dialog about the possibilities of the developing countries cities, to adapt to the current circumstances as well as the consequences of the possible rise in the sea level and the increase in the rainfalls, stated in the IPCC scenarios.



Genoveva de Mahieu - gmahieu@salvador.edu.ar


"The management of the mitigation of catastrophe risks consists in going beyond the catastrophes in themselves, such as floods and droughts, in order to face the present circumstances of the vulnerability before such phenomena. It is the geographic, social, cultural, economic and political background of a certain country that makes its population vulnerable in presence of extreme phenomena”. International Strategy for Catastrophe Prevention (ISCP) (2005) of the United Nations:


Since February 16th 2005, the Kyoto Protocol (KP) has entered to force, establishing the commitment made by the industrialized countries to reduce the overall emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) for the period 2008-20125, 5% less than 1990 levels. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC) scenarios the climatic change will be noticeable by various impacts. Temperatures and precipitations will change, droughts and floods will occur more frequently and sea levels will rise associated with the generalized melting of the ice of the Earth. Even when GHGs’ emissions could be controlled and their concentration in the atmosphere stabilized in the long term, the warming will continue for several decades and the levels of the oceans will keep on rising for centuries with serious consequences for millions of people (“GEO 3”, “PNUMA”; 2002). However, those responsible for the policies are fully convinced of the need to make considerable efforts to reduce GHGs’ emissions.

Argentina´s contribution to the Global Climatic Change (GCC) by GHGs’ emissions is 0.86% of the total 7.56% of South America and the Caribbean (Climate Indicators Tool_CAIT, World Resources Institute, 2005). Even when, the emissions of the country are lower than in other countries, various scenarios have been made, more related to effects of the GCC in Argentina. One of the last scenarios,made by the “UNEP-GRID”/“Arendal” (2005) based on the reports from the IPCCand at he same time, on the projections made of the rainfall in Buenos Aires during the last 100 years, considered as a possible consequence of the GCC associated with the effects of the “Niño” and the “Niña” (cycles of droughts and floods). During the last century, the world mean temperature increased 0.6 ºC, while the sea-level rose between 9 and 20 cm. The IPCC predicts increases in the world average temperature of the surface of 1.4 ºC and 5.8 ºC. According to several projections, the sea level is expected to increase anywhere from 9 to 88 cm. Based on these projections, the rainfall will increase in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay and the temperatures in the south of Brazil will rise. (J.McCarthy et al 2001).

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change refers to adaptation in several of its articles: (2, 4.1 b, 4.1 e, 4.1 f and 4.4)

In reference to the article 4.1 (e): “All Parties shall cooperate in preparing for adaptation to the impacts of climate change; develop and elaborate appropriate and integrated plans for coastal zone management, water resources and agriculture, and for the protection and rehabilitation of areas…”
Buenos Aires, could be a good example to analyze vulnerability to climatic change, is considered world’s largest coastal megacities in the planet (12.828.669 inhabitants, that is the 34% of Argentina’s population)

The problem of the floods in AMBA has been the issue of several national and international multidisciplinary works. Particularly in the case of research works linked with the GCC problem, we can quote works by Herzer (2003), Clichevsky (2003) and Natenzon et. al., (2002) and Murgida and González (2005)

Which is AMBA´s current situation in relation to the flowing risk? At present, a series of factors such as the slight slope in the region, the limited drainage capacity of the hydric surplus in urbanized areas, the rise of the aquifers and the building construction in valleys flooded by the rivers flowing into the basin has contributed to expose the area to frequent but also intense floods, populations migrations and a lot of material loss. If to this we add the fact that there is a large costal front in which we find the de la Plata River, part of the Delta and the basins of the Matanza-Riachuelo rivers, and that there are local climatic phenomena, such as the coastal storms called the “Sudestada” and regional phenomena such as “El Niño”, all these show us that floods constitute the most relevant impact in the area.

The AMBA use soil in multiple ways, with a big surface in residential use, with flooding areas populated by low and impoverished socioeconomic sectors. The floods have social risk consequences linked with the sanitary issues. Even if 100% of the population in Buenos Aires City has fresh water and sewage system, an important part of the population of the 24 districts of AMBA has no access to these services, according to the data colllected during the National Census 2001 (INDEC, Argentinean National Institute of Statistics and Census, 2003). Similarly, 35.5% of the inhabitants of the region have no connection to the drinking water system and 66.9% also do not have basic sanitation services. In this sense, the population of the region gets their water supply from two main sources of water to be purified. The first is the de la Plata River which is the only one used by the service of formal supply. More than 7 million people get drinking water from this source at home every day. The second source is the Puelche aquifer from which nearly 5 million inhabitants and a large number of industries get their supply individually. The effects of a rise in the sea-level and in the rainfall level could cause salty water to get in the river as well as in the aquifers, making the purification process of the water difficult eliminating the source of drinking water of excellent quality The risk is even greater if we take into account the poor housing conditions of the area. (GEO Buenos Aires, 2003).

The megacity poses special challenges for disaster risk reduction for a number of reasons. “First, there is their sheer scale and geographic complexity. They sprawl over large areas, and this alone makes the day-to-day monitoring of hazards and vulnerability difficult and adequate provision and protection of lifeline infrastructure problematic. These urban regions have grown over and incorporated a variety of pre-existing villages and towns. Therefore, street patterns are complicated, and interconnectivity within the whole region is a physical challenge for the transport system. The megacity is made up of a number of municipal jurisdictions, so coordinated administration in normal times or emergencies cannot be assumed” (Wisner, 2003 revision). At the same time, it’s important to take into account, that these cities require large amounts of energy, water, food, and other “inputs” and create large amounts of solid, liquid, and gaseous effluent and waste heat, the environmental impact is as large as the city is.

How to face the present circumstances of AMBA vulnerability and project future scenarios?




- Clichevsky N., 2003: "Urban Land Markets and Disasters: Floods in Argentina`s Cities" en Kreimer A., Arnold M., Carlin A. (eds.) Building Safer Cities. The Future of Disaster Risk. Disaster Risk Management Series Nº3. The World Bank. Washington, D.C.

- Herzer H., 2003: "Flooding in the Pampean Region of Argentina: The Salado Basin" en Kreimer A., Arnold M., Carlin A. (eds.) Building Safer Cities. The Future of Disaster Risk. Disaster Risk Management Series Nº3. The World Bank. Washington, D.C.

- INDEC (Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas y Censos), 2003: Censo Nacional de Población, Hogares y Vivienda 2001, Buenos Aires, Argentina. En: http://www.indec.gov.ar

- Klein R.J.T., Nicholls R.J., Thomalla F., 2003: "The Resilience of Coastal Megacities to Weather-Related Hazards" en Kreimer A., Arnold M., Carlin A. (eds.) Building Safer Cities. The Future of Disaster Risk. Disaster Risk Management Series Nº3. The World Bank. Washington, D.C.

- Mc Carthy J., Canziani O.F., Leary N., Dokken D., White K. (eds.), 2001: Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, Chapter 14.

- Murguida A.M.,Gonzalez S:G (2005) Social risk, climate change and human security. An introductory case study in Metropolitan area of Buenos Aires. Argentina. Human Security and climate change. International Work .Organizers: Centre for the study of Civil War, International Peace Research Institute (PRIO) & Centre for International Environmental an Climate Research at the university of Oslo (CICERO)for the global Environmental Change and Human Security (GECHS) Oslo 21-23 June 2005

- Natenzon C. E.; Gonzalez S., Gentile E., Rios D., Boudin C., 2002: "Social vulnerability, climate change and floods. First AIACC Regional Workshop for Latin America and Caribbean 27 al 30 de mayo. San José de Costa Rica, Costa Rica.

- PNUMA (Programa de Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente), 2002: Perspectivas del Medio Ambiente Mundial 2002 GEO - 3. Pasado, presente y futuro. Ediciones Mundi- Prensa, Madrid.

- UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) / GRID Arendal, 2005: Vital Graphics Series - Vital Climate Change Graphics Update. En http://www.grida.no

- UN/ISDR (United Nations, International Strategy for Disaster Reduction), 2004: Gestión de riesgo de peligros relacionados con el agua. En http://www.unisdr.org/eng/media-room/point-view/Risk-management-water-related-hazards-spanish.pdf

- Wisner B., 2003: "Disaster Risk Reduction in Megacities: Making the Most of Human and Social Capital" en Kreimer A., Arnold M., Carlin A. (eds.) Building Safer Cities. The Future of Disaster Risk. Disaster Risk Management Series Nº3. The World Bank. Washington, D.C.

- WRI (World Resources Institute), 2005: Climate Indicators Tools - CAIT. Washington D.C.