Raisa is working to decrease the impact of flooding on low-lying areas. That calls for the construction of infrastructure to transport excess water, as well as the restoration of green areas to both absorb that water and preserve the city’s ecosystems—a challenge for Panama City as well as other Latin American cities pressed to incorporate climate change preparedness into urban development. Lima’s water drainage system, for example, needs to be developed to cope with expected more intense precipitation patterns. In Buenos Aires and Asunción, meanwhile, there has been an increase in the number of informal settlements in low-lying, flood-prone areas over the past two decades, whose population is now more vulnerable. The rapid urban development in the region over the past 50 years has relied heavily on the use of impervious construction materials like concrete and asphalt. But from now on, the region needs to start innovating through more integrated planning and the use of design, technologies and materials that can help us absorb excess run-off and mimic the water cycle. Meanwhile, other metropolises, like Mexico City and Santiago, need to rethink infrastructure to become more water efficient because they are likely to face water shortages in the future.
Gallego is chief of the Housing and Urban Development division of the Climate Change and Sustainable Development Sector at the Inter-American Development Bank