ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability
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Quito, Ecuador
Quito is the second largest metropolitan area in Ecuador. The local government is responsible for urban development, drinking water, sewage and other environmental services, construction and maintenance of local roads, and public spaces. The city has numerous environmental problems including air pollution and water contamination. In 1990, the municipality created the Department of Environmental Quality Control within the Department of Hygiene in response to these problems. To address the requirements of the growing population and increasing strain on the environment, the Metropolitan District Law (MDL) was passed in November 1993, giving Quito increased ability to address problems through municipal legislation. The law divided the municipality into the north, center and south administrative zones.

Since the implementation of the MDL in the South Zone, residents and community groups of each neighborhood have been involved in community planning, problem analysis, establishment of priorities and strategies and recommendations for appropriate development projects. The South Zone Administration has organized sector-specific meetings with churches, NGOs, barrio-(neighborhood) level committees, the armed forces, industries, municipal departments and municipal service companies. In addition, public forums have brought the many sectors together to identify and develop consensus on priorities for elaboration and action. One of the products of this consensus-building process is the South Zone's Integral Development Plan.

Quito's participation in the MCP was focused on the South Zone (which already used creative initiatives and had a unique approach to governance). Community involvement was defined as a priority, and the South Zone's Integral Development Plan was the product of the first-ever intensive community consultation process for issue identification, priority setting and implementation. As a result, it was decided that the MCP elaborate on this plan. The South Zone is the poorest part of the city with many illegal settlements, the most rapid population growth in Quito, the lowest service provision and the highest concentration of industry.

After considering four projects for the LA 21 MCP, the Ravines Recuperation Project was chosen as the most urgent, and was launched in January 1996. The objective of the project is to involve stakeholders in the development and implementation of a plan of action that would ultimately restore the ecological balance of the ravines, and improve the quality of life of residents in the surrounding barrios.

Community leaders, NGOs working in the South Zone, staff of the relevant municipal directorates, the Municipal Company for Portable Water and Sewage, the Municipal Company for Waste Management, staff of the South Zone Administration, and civil-society representatives were invited to participate. A Project Team was formed, made up of two individuals paid by ICLEI-a technical coordinator, who also worked for the South Zone Administration, and a MCP researcher-and a representative from the South Zone Administration. The Ravines Recuperation Project is linked to the municipal statutory planning process through the South Zone Integral Development Plan and through the municipal staff involved in the project.

As mentioned above, the MCP was situated within the development process of the Integral Development Plan. During the following months additional partners were invited to join the working groups, and representatives from the working groups formed a Coordination Committee. This committee acted as the stakeholder group in the Ravines Recuperation Project during the issue-assessment phase. The Coordination Committee was redefined in the action-planning and implementation phase, and was made up of elected representatives from five working groups corresponding to the action-planning areas.

Members of the Coordination Committee of both phases represented a range of sectors involved with the development of the ravines and the communities that surround them, including local government, churches, residents' associations, NGOs and academia. Despite receiving invitations, private-sector industries did not attend.

The main functions of the Coordination Committee during the issue-assessment and analysis phase were to set the agenda, evaluate projects weekly, draft proposals and define strategies. In the action-planning phase, the committee coordinated the project and made decisions on everything relating to it, including financial management.

The South Zone administrative staff played an active advisory role on this committee and have been particularly valuable because of their extensive knowledge about interventions concerning the ravines and the Ravines Recuperation Project.

The exchange of information among members of diverse social sectors in the working groups and committee resulted in increased respect for differing points of view, and a more complex understanding of the issues surrounding the recuperation of the ravines. The process created a training and educational forum for environmental and social issues.

Community-Based Issue Analysis
Community consultation for issue identification and priority setting took place during the development of the Integral Development Plan and was financed by the zone administration. Beginning in 1994, and designed by the South Zone administrator, the planning process engaged people in participatory planning.

A document entitled A Vision for the Future of the South Zone was created and fifteen projects identified to realize the vision. The visioning process enabled a better working relationship and coordination of activities between the administration and other organizations. Workshops were held on the themes of governance, legitimacy and representation; land-use ordinance reform in the south; community participation and development plans; and environmental management in the zone. As a result of capacity-building and extensive public involvement, confidence has grown among the community and other stakeholders. The vision forms the basis of the South Zone Administration's Strategic Plan, a formulation of all the projects aimed at attaining the dreams expressed therein. It was the first urban planning and governance exercise in Ecuador that operated on the premise of community consultation.

Issue Assessment
The Quito MCP focused its issue assessment and analysis on a single issue, the ravines of the South Zone. Assessment was introduced at a workshop organized in collaboration with ICLEI. Thirty-five participants representing local residents, NGOs, the South Zone Administration, churches and various municipal departments attended the workshop. Participants organized into two working groups, health and pollution, and land use and housing. Each group identified the data it required and developed procedures to gather the information.

The Project Team suggested that participants collect any existing information such as maps, studies and articles, and produce testimonial information from members of the communities surrounding the ravines. Working group members also produced information about the history of the ravines in written and video form.

During the spring of 1996 the Coordination Committee organized two exploratory trips to ravine communities that strengthened participant awareness about the particular problems surrounding the ravines. The Project Team conducted two surveys in ravine communities. In analyzing issues, the team searched for causes of problems instead of simply recommending solutions. Quantitative data were lacking so the information collected was mainly qualitative.

The Environmental Assessment Report for the ravines was produced in September 1996. In addition to containing contextual information on Quito, the South Zone, the ravines and the assessment process, it classified the data that were collected and included the results of several surveys.

The assessment and analysis identified the priority issues of residents living around the ravines, and the most important risks presented by the ravines. The survey of risks recognized the view that industrial waste posed the greatest risk to communities, while garbage and the disposal of untreated waste from the abattoir were the second and third most important risks. The assessment found that the effects of industrial pollution were worse than what could be deducted from simple observation and recommended that limiting measures be taken. The report recommends closer collaboration with the Department of Environmental Protection and other municipal and South Zone entities.

As a result of the assessment process, various partners committed funds and action plans to the Ravines Recuperation Project. The municipality supported the process through the participation of staff in the working groups. One technician from the Community Development Department of the South Zone Administration worked part-time within the Project Team. Collection and analysis of data continued as a priority into the action-planning phase of the LA 21.

Staff and officials of the South Zone Administration feel that the issue-assessment and analysis phase led to the solidification of a civic group with sufficient theoretical and practical capacity to lead to a new type of planning that will create civic responsibility for sustainable development. This process raised consciousness about the importance of the ravines and the natural environment and their connection to the lives of the people.

Action Planning
Participants of the issue assessment and analysis process attended an action-planning workshop in November 1996, where they identified and discussed recommendations resulting from the previous planning phase, and agreed on a series of goals or targets to be achieved for each stage.

The focus of the action plan is on long-term solutions. First, the plan contains actions for integrated management of the ravines through the creation of a legal, organizational and financial framework. Second, there is an agreement to conduct thorough analysis on relevant issues before making specific interventions in the ravines. Third, awareness of environmental management and citizen responsibility will be created through an education and information programme. Finally, there is a call for industries to eradicate ravine pollution at source.

The action plan was presented to representatives of the municipal legal department, the Association of Southern Businesspersons and the South Zone Administration heads of parishes in December 1996 and January 1997. No stakeholder within or outside the project's scope expressed negative reaction or opposition to the action plan-it is seen by many as the most important product to date of the Ravines Recuperation Project.

The action plan for the Ravines Recuperation Project is being incorporated into municipal government policies and activities in many ways. Since environmental management is one of the priority requirements of the Metropolitan District Law and Quito's future Strategic Plan (under development), all the conditions exist for the Action Plan for the Recuperation of the Ravines to be implemented. Municipal officials see every ravine-related action as part of a wider strategy of recuperation.

Outcomes of the MCP
The coordinated and systematic formation of partnerships has been one of the most important results of the process. In spite of the fact that the project has undertaken limited physical work, the project is already a model of the collective process of understanding and practicing sustainable development. The process has enabled changes in consciousness and behavior of the partners.

Lessons Learned from the LA 21 Planning Process
  • Changes need to take place at the institutional level-especially with respect to its relationship with communities-to successfully achieve the desired results of a project guided by sustainable development principles.
  • Limited understanding of sustainable-development planning principles, dependence on internal and external financing and poor participation of the industrial sector can inhibit success.
  • Simple methods of consultation, including meetings and workshops can be effective activities for consultation and consensus-building.
  • The collection of historical and technical data by residents can make an important contribution.