Quito, Ecuador, a UNESCO World Heritage City, and host of the UN Habitat III Conference in October 2016, has been recognized for being a leader in planning for climate change adaptation, and its development approach has emphasized housing and quality of life for its citizens.
But Quito is also a microcosm of the challenges facing cities as they try to accommodate sustainable growth that prioritizes communities over the automobile.
Early in the conference, with exquisite timing, delegates were greeted by a large march of activists trying to stop a road expansion project that would displace nearly 70 percent of a nearby village’s population.
Quito is partnering with a private corporation to create a $131 million tunnel expansion and bridge project aimed at alleviating the massive gridlock that blocks the city’s busiest road.
Quito’s Mayor believes the project is necessary not only to ease gridlock but also to give the city a new emergency exit if it faces the type of natural disasters - earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, that have happened it the past.
The proposed tunnel expansion has resulted in a fierce opposition movement of activists, urban planners, architects, city officials and residents who are quick to point out the irony that a city would embark this project while hosting the world’s largest sustainable cities event.