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The Invisible Rivers Under Buenos Aires

In his recently published book, Buenos Aires, Ciudad Inundable, or Buenos Aires, A Flooding City, biologist Antonio Brailovsky exposes a vivid reality of the urban situation of Buenos Aires, a city imposed onto nature.

As exposed in a previous post, Buenos Aires has a complicated relationship with the environment that surrounds it; the city is located in a place that enjoys a mild climate, no earthquakes or massive storms. Sadly, due to global warming and to a lenient approach to urban planning, it has one of the highest rates (and costs) of natural disasters in Latin America.

The laws of the Indies, and pure common sense prohibit building on low areas in Buenos Aires, leaving running rivers and streams intact.

But afterwards, successive stages of economic and social development of the country, together with real estate speculation and technological arrogance started an urbanization process that saw five important waterways hidden under tons of concrete.

Typical flood in Buenos Aires

Irresponsibility and speculation built roads and highways over the Maldonado, Vega, Cildáñez, Medrano and Riachuelo rivers. In a strong rain, these rivers return and recover their valleys, flooding the city.

Now, efforts are underway to rectify the situation of the now-underground rivers and amplify their flow, but here one should ask: Is this even rational? First you put people living next to a river, and then you try to remove the river through expensive efforts with unclear results?

Maldonado Underground River

Only public participation can really produce different ways to re-think the relationship between our culture and nature. This is the debate Buenos Aires should have now, instead of hiding the rivers underground.

Does your city have a healthy relationship with nature? What would you suggest to Buenos Aires?

Credit: Data and images linked to sources.