Author: Carlos Andrés Espinoza Bardales
Historically, the territory has been conceived as a blank canvas through which capital, resources and people interact . This economistic vision of the territory laid the foundations for the praxis of various disciplines, promoting the design of monofunctional infrastructures inserted in a natural environment studied only for its monetary value.
This paradigm has been questioned since the booming of ecological science at the beginning of the 20th century, showing the interdependence between the anthropogenic and natural elements of the ecosystem. In this way, a territory is conceived in a way that not only operates, but co-evolves . Such interdependence exposes the influence of ecosystem processes on economic productivity, risk reduction (by slope stabilization, etc.), among others. That is why there are studies that analyze the behavior of resources (plant species, microorganisms, soil, etc.) to provide certain ecosystem services that benefit men and the territory through actions of "green infrastructure" .
The academia has been proposing green infrastructure as a complement and/or replacement of conventional infrastructure, called gray infrastructure. This proposal is based on the fact that green infrastructure has a lower cost of installation and maintenance, as well as being less invasive with the environment and offers multiple benefits . For example, in the case of soil and water phytoremediation, depending on the quantity and type of pollutants to be treated, it can mean savings between 50% and 80% compared to conventional waste and pollutant processing which rely in mechanical and chemical actions.
On the other hand, green infrastructure provides multiple benefits. For instance, according to a Territorial Development Plan, the city of Zarumilla is at risk of tidal waves. This risk can be reduced by using mangroves as a protective barrier that reduces the height of waves by 30% for each linear kilometer of mangrove; in addition to other benefits such as carbon sequestration, animal shelters, etc. However, mangroves are threatened with extinction due to river contamination caused by lack of regulation of mining activities and shrimp farming.
Another example is found in the coastal hills of Peru where populations live in water stress; however, hills are depredated and lose the possibility of capturing atmospheric water. In this regard, there is literature that supports the use of certain species, such as Casuarina, as a potential capturer of atmospheric water due to its leaf morphology and foliage density .
Recently, the country is promoting the implementation of green infrastructure projects for water security and climate change adaptation. These initiatives combine ancestral and scientific knowledge, aiming to develop success stories that can be replicated throughout the country. Peru is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and will have to promote and implement green infrastructures as a sustainable, economic and eco-friendly option to face the increasingly unpredictable anthropogenic and climatic processes that affect our eco-regions.
Information on the author:
Peruvian architect with a master's degree in Landscape Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, with more than 4 years of experience in the formulation and development of architecture and sustainable land management projects in the pre-investment and investment stages. His work revolves around the intersection of infrastructure design and functional landscapes, incorporating their ecosystem services and defining strategies for water security, risk reduction and natural conservation. Currently, he is working as a consultant in Sustainable Urban Development in the Nuestras Ciudades Program at the Ministry of Housing in Peru.