Futures” projects in La Paz and Loreto
Led by Harvard
University’s Graduate School of Design, in collaboration with the University of
Arizona, UABCS, San Diego State University, CIBNOR, and Scripps Institution of
Oceanography, the Alternative Futures research projects evaluated the advantages
and disadvantages of different development scenarios in La Paz and Loreto, using
a timeframe of 10-25 years. Special consideration was given to the impacts that
urban development would have on the natural environment, especially on each
city’s hydrological system.
The main goal of
the two Alternative Futures studies, was to assist local/regional
decision-makers with their economic projections, land-use planning, and
infrastructure investments for La Paz and Loreto, since otherwise “...there is
the risk of damaging its economy, hydrology and environment and its landscape on
which it depends.” Sufficient drinking water, public access to beaches and shores, increases in per
capita income and the regional economy, and protection of marine and terrestrial
ecosystems were some of the objectives that civic and elected leaders identified
as important factors to future urban development in these areas.
The La Paz mayor at
the time of the report’s release, Victor Guluarte, said that the project “will
help create a more attractive city, which will benefit local trade.”
In La Paz, the study was
carried out in 2004 with UABCS, emphasizing municipal water and sewer
infrastructure, as well as public amenities, such as the malecón,
Balandra Beach, the Mogote, and the historic core of the city. These issues
continue to drive civic participation in La Paz as local citizens and elected
officials weigh the pros and cons of future large-scale resort development,
municipal treatment facilities, and expanded tourism.
In Loreto, a
proposed urban development plan for the city provided the context for the
Alternative Futures research in 2005. With five academic partners from
the U.S. and Mexico, the Harvard team focused on groundwater resources, tourism,
real estate, and visual corridors to the islands and the mountains.
Desalination emerged as a key predicator of any future population growth, as the
city’s available water supplies will not sustain a population beyond 30,000
people. Therefore, impacts on energy use, marine resources, and existing
residents must be considered before further growth is contemplated. Local
citizens have become increasingly engaged in this discussion.