FEATURE: Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay join to increase resilience of tri-border region
Resilience has now catapulted up the agenda of three cities, which lie in South America’s tri-border region, in the Parana River basin. Report from the Climate Resilient Cities – Latin America team.
The so-called tri-border region of South America – where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet – is highly exposed to extreme climate and weather events. It suffers from numerous vulnerabilities, including: poverty, economic and political instability, lack of financial resources and infrastructure.
Now the unique ‘Triangle City Cooperation’ project has recommended that cities of this region must take precipitous action to reduce their climate change vulnerability and forge more climate-resilient development – to secure the region’s future. The project’s work has led directly to the formation of several tripartite initiatives among Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil), Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) and Puerto Iguazú (Argentina): cities which meet at the confluence of borders – and of the major Parana and Iguazú Rivers.
The project began in March 2017 and has been a joint effort among the University of Leeds (United Kingdom), the National University of Misiones (Argentina), the Instituto Internacional Polo Iguassu (Brazil) and the Catholic University of Our Lady of the Assumption (Paraguay). It has been supported by the Climate Resilient Cities in Latin America initiative of CDKN, Fundacion Futuro Latinoamericano and IDRC (Canada).
The research team analysed vulnerability and adaptation strategies in the tri-border region, in order to identify existing climate-related trends and problems in the cities. Its main findings were:
- The tri-border region is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts;
- Exponential population growth has not been accompanied by adequate urban planning; and
- Infrastructure investment is needed to help populations deal with the constant floods.
The complete research results are available in the report: Vulnerability and Adaptation Strategies in the Trinational Region (in Spanish: Reporte: Evaluación de la vulnerabilidad y estrategias de adaptación en la región trinacional).
Growing population, growing climate stresses
The analysis revealed that “since the 1960s, the tri-border region has experienced rapid growth and continues to expand. Its population has increased more than seven times and it is expected that Ciudad del Este is among the ten cities in Latin America that will grow most rapidly before the year 2030, according to the UN’s urbanisation projections”. The study also revealed that population growth has outstripped the provision of urban infrastructure.
Historical trends suggest that climatic patterns have changed in the tri-border region during the past five decades. The study’s results show that annual precipitation has increased over the years. It stated: “The annual maximum daily precipitation and the number of extreme rainfall events showed an increase, which indicates that intense precipitation events are becoming more intense and frequent.” The study recommends that the meteorological monitoring system in the tri-border region should be improved and a common understanding reached on definitions of extreme weather events.
As for future climate projections, the report indicates that the average temperature is expected to increase in the region towards the end of the 21st century and that extreme weather events will increase, especially those related to high temperatures.
Potential for unilateral and joint action
The study on vulnerability and strategies for the tri-border area concludes that “Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil) shows a lower level of vulnerability to extreme weather conditions compared to Ciudad del Este and Puerto Iguazú.” In its favour – and supporting climate resilience — Foz has relatively more green areas (45% of the municipal area), lower poverty (fewer people living in poverty and in marginal neighborhoods), better access to drinking water, waste treatment and education. “In addition, the Brazilian city has a lower mortality rate, a larger public budget and a more dynamic and diversified economy than the other two cities.
By contrast, Ciudad del Este and Puerto Iguazú have proportionately larger populations that are susceptible to the impacts of extreme weather, and a lower capacity to recover after disasters. The report warns that “Ciudad del Este is more sensitive to extreme events, such as heavy rains and heat waves”; It also notes that “irregular settlements in high-risk areas represent a serious governance challenge in the three cities” and that “city-city cooperation to respond to extreme climate impacts exists, but it is mainly informal.” The expert group produced a set of policy recommendations including a call for further investments in climate-related disaster prevention, preparedness and response measures.
In addition to using expert input, the team held focus groups, interviews and workshops in the three cities to identify possible solutions to the problems encountered, such as the implementation of drainage systems to reduce flood risks. In October 2017, the first proposals – for some 18 solutions per city – were presented in each urban centre, with their estimated costs, benefits and operational details.
In December 2018, representatives of ITAIPU (the largest hydroelectric plant in the world in terms of power generation), the private sector and civil society of the three cities discussed ways to implement these solutions, focusing on options for cooperation among the municipalities. Key institutions and people were identified who could help implement the solutions.
Governments get behind tri-border cooperation for a climate-resilient future
In response to the research and dialogue process, Mr. Francisco Lacerda Brasileiro, Mayor of Foz do Iguaçu, Mrs. Sandra Zacarías, Mayor of Ciudad del Este, and Dr. Claudio Raúl Filippa, Mayor of Puerto Iguazú, signed the Declaration to enable their cities to participate in the global campaign for developing resilient cities: ‘My city is getting ready!’, organised by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). This campaign seeks to support local governments to reduce disaster risk and improve resilience, in accord with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
The three countries’ commitment to work jointly on climate resilience was secured at high-level meeting in Foz do Iguacu on 17 May 2018. Here, representatives of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay signed a pledge to create a Sustainable Development Council for the trinational region, which will be formed of the member institutions of the economic, social and environmental development boards of the three countries (CODEFOZ, CODESPI and CODELESTE), and other public and private bodies responsible for water and natural resource management.
Last – but not least, a new trinational climate science network was launched at this month’s event. The network has been formed by professionals and academic representatives of the universities which took part in this initial research project. The trinational climate science network intends to continue investigating and discussing solutions to the region’s climate problems, and so provide scientific evidence for sound, climate-resilient decision-making in the future.
Much of the information in this article came directly from this description of the ‘Triangle City Cooperation’ project (originally in Spanish).
Read the policy brief: Cooperation strategies: the solution to increase the Triple Border’s region’s resilience to climate change (in Spanish – Estrategias de cooperación: La solución para aumentar la resiliencia de la Triple Frontera ante el cambio climático)
The Triangle City Cooperation project is part of the Climate Resilient Cities in Latin America initiative of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), International Development Research Center (IDRC) and Fundacion Futuro Latinoamericano (FFLA).