Friday 2 June 2023

Comptroller’s Office calls for more municipal coordination to face consequences of the GAM’s urban growth

Report warns of economic and social consequences as a result of the disorderly development that has transformed the center of the country

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QCOSTARICA – The Contraloría General de la República (CGR) – Comptroller’s Office – demands greater coordination between the municipal authorities of the center of the country, to face the problems caused by the accelerated and disorderly urban growth of the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM).

Road congestion, difficulties in interconnecting public transport and long travel times are some of the consequences of the disorderly growth of the GAM. The image shows the congestion on the Ruta 32. Photo: Alonso Tenorio.

According to a report prepared by the CGR, 11 of the 31 metropolitan municipalities still do not integrate coordinating aspects of planning with other cantons of influence.

“The data (…) suggest that in the majority of local governments of the GAM there is no nexus that allows articulating the national and regional vision of urban planning and land use planning, with the local vision.

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“This leads to, among other things, public policy at the regional and national level, not expanding to the lowest possible geographic institutional level (reaching the municipalities) and therefore, the achievement of goals aimed at improving habitat quality, environmental protection and management, territorial competitiveness, mobility and transportation, governance in city administration, urban renewal, among others,” the report said.

Apart from the lack of coordination, the Comptroller’s Office once again pointed out that 11 municipalities still do not have a regulatory plan.

They are e the municipalities of Alajuelita, Aserrí and Tibás, in the province of San José; Heredia, Barva, Santa Bárbara, Santo Domingo, San Rafael and San Pablo, in the province of Heredia; as well as Atenas and Poás, in the province of Alajuela.

Among the cantons that do have these instruments, essential for the regulation of urban growth, the problem pointed out by the Comptroller’s Office is that the “majority” of the plans are older than 10 years, without receiving updates according to current needs.

In the case of the regulatory plans of the municipalities of Belén, Santa Ana and Vázquez de Coronado, the documents are dated more than 23 years ago, the Comptroller’s report said.

“Numerous sources have also stressed that planned urbanization, with respect to its density, functionality and infrastructure development, together with the design of public spaces, buildings, mobility and transportation, are essential to advance in the objective of shaping and consolidating sustainable cities. and resilient,” says the report.

Problems for its inhabitants

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The GAM has faced an expansion of its urban area since the 1980s, when the inhabitants began to leave the city centers towards peripheral areas.

This urban growth, which occurred in an unplanned way, led to the main problems faced by the inhabitants of the cantons of the metropolitan area.

Road congestion, poor interconnection of public transport, lack of drinking water in some localities, or the problems of garbage collection, as a few.

This also means a greater outlay of public resources, to bring infrastructure, health, education, and security services to areas far from the center.

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“Urbanization brings development, but managed without a systematic and coordinated vision, it is the origin of negative externalities that are transferred to citizens and the use of public funds,” the CGR said.

Among these externalities, it highlighted the long travel times, construction in river protection zones, and pollution.

The Comptroller’s Office warned that given the unstoppable urbanization, it is necessary to start thinking about sustainability and accessibility to cities in the future, as well as the implications for public funds.

“The current pandemic is already giving great lessons on this,” it said.

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