Cuba’s second oldest city, Bayamo, has signed up to a new Urban Pact supported by UN-HABITAT and the government of Belgium designed to tackle a range of environmental problems that have been slowing its development.
An estimated 200 local officials joined Mayor Adrian Gorgoso Suárez and other national and international dignitaries in the usually placid Plaza de la Revolución in the historic centre of Bayamo on Friday, 11 April to sign the pact and publicly commit themselves to take concrete measures to curb the city’s urban degradation and build the foundations for a more sustainable future for the city first established nearly 500 years ago.
The pact formally endorses the work of a four-day Consulta Urbana, a city consultation which focused on issues of the pollution of the Río Bayamo, solid waste management, public transport, and the quality of public spaces.
With a population of 150,000, it is the capital of Granma Province in the Southeast of the country. The city has a rich history but development has been relatively slow compared to other provincial capitals. More than half of the city’s population is living in neighbourhoods with unsatisfactory basic services and poor quality of urban space. The water quality of the Bayamo River is poor, the lifeline of the city is seriously polluted, affecting its use for human consumption, recreation, industry and urban agriculture. The solid waste management needs overhauling, while Bayamo’s urban transport is constrained by a lack of fuel and spare parts. This is due in part to conflicting views on the traditional horse carts as a central element in the public transport system.
A team of local experts had documented these topics through the participatory development of an Urban Environmental Profile, which served as the basis for the City Consultation. The consultation offered a forum for animated debate, reflecting the conflicting interests of key stakeholders. It also helped to broaden the ownership of the process and agreed on an Urban Pact. This pact envisions sustainable urbanization for Bayamo and sets out the tasks for thematic working groups whose composition reflects the key stakeholders concerned. These groups will now develop project proposals to demonstrate how the issues can be addressed with tangible impact on the daily lives of urban residents. Particular focus will be on resource mobilization and institutional coordination.
The Consulta Urbana in Bayamo is an activity within the framework of the the Localising Agenda 21 Programme implemented by UN-HABITAT with support of the Belgian government, in Cuba the programme works in close collaboration with the Instituto de Planificacion Fisica (IPP – Institute of Physical Planning), the Programma para el Desarollo Humano a nivel Local (PDHL – Programme for Human Development at the Local level), and a consortium of Belgian institutions, coordinated by the University of Leuven. In parallel with the pilot project in Bayamo, a capacity building centre is being developed in the city of Santa Clara, in the centre of the country, as a mechanism to mainstream innovative urban planning and management concepts at the national level.