An eco-tourism corridor in las Cachinches
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
The arroyo (streambed) of Obraje will be turned into an eco-tourism corridor featuring artificial lakes, murals and fruit trees. It is hoped that this improvement will diminish the insecurity in the area and offer economic opportunities for those whose houses face the stream.
According to the Civil Protection Department, several floods have occurred in the city, all of them due to the tributaries in the upper area of San Miguel that meet at the arroyo of las Cachinches, which begins in the slopes of Marroquín de Abajo and crosses through Mexiquito, Avenida Guadalupe, San Antonio, Las Cuevitas, La Estación and San Miguel Viejo and leads to the Presa Allende.
The first flood was recorded in 1894 and caused damage on Calzada de la Luz, Avenida Guadalupe and Calzada de la Estación in the lower part of the city. Flooding repeated in 1933 and 1973. The worst flood was in 1998, causing three deaths and 10 injuries. In February 2010, a heavy rain that lasted 72 hours threatened to cause another flood. Students from the schools near the arroyo were evacuated as well as vendors at San Juan de Dios. Fortunately, the rain stopped and no flooding occurred.
Édgar Bautista, head of the Urban Development Department, told Atención that the stream, which starts in el Obraje and ends at the Presa Allende, has not been improved for about a decade, when large rocks were placed in the channel to slow the flow of water, and it also was widened to avoid overflows. The
current Risk Atlas suggests that dikes be constructed to prevent disasters in the future.
Cleanup has already begun
Residents of colonia Guadalupe are concerned about lack of security in that area; many of the criminals who commit crimes in the neighborhood hide in or escape from authorities through the arroyo. For that reason, in a meeting with representatives of the Ecology and Urban Development Department residents requested a cleanup of the waterway; and that the city rebuild the walls that used to block the entrances from the stream into Guadalupe.
The cleaning of the arroyo started in February, had been scheduled before the residents requested it. Employees from different departments of the administration cleaned the channel between colonia Guadalupe and barrio del Obraje. The employees cut down several trees and took out weeds and trash. With regard to rebuilding walls to isolate colonia Guadalupe from the arroyo, Bautista said that he did not have information about the matter, although he said that cutting off the neighborhood from the arroyo would be a mistake because the idea is to bring people into the area and if criminals notice that the place is well-lit and there is movement they will go elsewhere or even decide to give up.
“The perspective is touristic,” commented the director, and it fulfills the Development Goals of the Millennium, the priorities of which are security, health and education. The idea is to turn the arroyo into a patio-garden within the city, a tourism corridor; “in other words, a park that would generate a new ecosystem as important as Parque Juárez,” commented Bautista. The work will connect the neighborhoods and benefit the primary, secondary and preparatory schools near the area.
The arroyo must be crossed by all those who attend the CBTis or who cross from other neighborhoods to Centro through the lower pass of the channel. For that reason, a bridge, that was destroyed during the 1998 flood, will be reconstructed on calle Indio Triste to connect Mexiquito and Guadalupe.
The idea is to eliminate, by means of the artificial river, the border between Centro and other neighborhoods and stop the arroyo from being a trash dump and conduit for raw sewage. “It will be an eco-tourism park, full of surprises and recreation, featuring plazas, walkways and bicycle paths,” remarked Bautista. He also commented that the new image of the area would allow those who own properties facing the arroyo to open their own businesses in the area, and they could help maintain the area, too. “We do not want to turn our backs on the arroyo or on lack of security or keep the place as an area for indigents,” said the director.
A three-phase plan
The project includes the sanitation and improvement of more than three and a half kilometers of the stream. According to Bautista they are trying to work ahead of the rainy season and also start before the deadline for federal funding programs that might support restoring the 12.7-kilometer stream.
The cleaning, commented the director, is also being done to prevent blockages that can lead to overflows and flooding. The potable water and sewage networks will be cleaned up also in the first stage. In this first phase, there will be a line of plazas and gardens located in la Aurora and Infonavit Allende.
During the second stage the area of colonia Guadalupe will be improved; sewage will be conducted underground to create a zone exclusively for collecting rainwater. Fruit trees will be planted on the channel banks. Currently, the area along Avenida Guadalupe where vendors are over the arroyo is unsightly. That will change in the second stage,
said the director. The permits have been requested from federal authorities but have not been issued yet.
The final stage will improve the area that begins at Puente de Guanajuato and goes through San Antonio, Cuevitas, la Estación, San Miguel Viejo to the Presa Allende. In that area, the streets will be improved and the stream cleaned. Currently work there cannot start because of the pollution generated by the markets and the slaughterhouse.
The final cost will be 122 million pesos, and the project is slated to be finished by the end of 2015.
All departments of local administration are involved in one way or another to turn the area into a site of art and culture. Also, nonprofit organizations such as Audubon, Amigos de la Presa and Blank Walls are taking part in the project.
Similar projects were begun during past administrations but have not been finished.
Ecologist Arturo Morales told Atención that the project does not fulfill the Environmental Program of the United Nations, which outlines five ways in which humans destroy diversity, among them the uncontrolled growth of cities, commercial agriculture or monoculture, the isolation of natural areas which generates inbreeding, the introduction of exotic species and pollution.
Using the program as a reference, Morales commented that the municipality should have called for a public consultation and used the expertise of those who know about the environment, not just the ideas of landscape architects. He said that the arroyo must be reforested with native plant species, which later would attract native fauna such as turtles, rabbits, brood-tooth rats, field mice and opossums. Morales stated that the river must be reforested first with grasses and shrubs before the fruit trees, as the grasses and shrubs support the trees.