This was originally posted 04/12/2015
The MEGADAPT team has been busy this fall, integrating the diversity of data sets, visions and ideas that were shared with us this past year. We’ve begun to develop the architecture of what will evolve to be the “MEGADAPT” model of Mexico City as a dynamic social-ecological system, in which hydrological risk is created and mitigated through the interactions of diverse actors in the city with each other, with the built environment and watershed. Our modeling effort incorporates surface and groundwater dynamics, land use change and climatic responses, the evolution of the built environment in terms of policy initiatives and population density, infrastructure, and the actions of key actors in response to risk. We have been very fortunate to have had the support and collaboration of diverse actors in the city: experts in Sistemas de Agua de la Ciudad de México (SACMEX), Secretaría de Medio Ambiente del Distrito Federal (SEDEMA), Procuradoría Ambiental y del Ordenamiento Territorial (PAOT), and Centro Nacional de Prevención de Desastres (CENAPRED); academics from Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and the Instituto Mora, as well as the generous contributions from chinamperos, pesqueros, communities involved in ecotourism activities, community development activists and civil society groups focused on urban development and water in the city as a whole and in our case study areas (Magdalena Contreras, Xochimilco, and Iztapalapa).
We are now in the process of analyzing the different visions offered to us by our collaborators about how the city works and the complex causes and consequences of vulnerability to water-related risks – in other words, the diversity of mental models held by the city’s stakeholders. It is clear that depending on where you are in the city and on what has been your experience and depending on your formal responsibilities, you will prioritize and act on different aspects of risk. For some, water quality is the critical concern, affecting their daily lives in transformative ways. Poor water quality affects household expenditures, health, and overall quality of life. For others, the burden of seasonal flooding is a primary concern, particularly since the water that enters their homes and stagnates in their neighborhoods is a noxious mix of sewage and rainwater. Many areas in the city still struggle with water access, and must organize their domestic activities around the timing of water availability. These circumstances have created distrust and frustration in many neighborhoods, as residents have felt obligated to manage their risk on their own, rather than rely on public sector initiatives to resolve the circumstances they face. Thus in all cases, households demonstrate significant resilience – although this resilience comes at the cost of anxiety, time, property and expenditure in auxiliary water resources. In the public sector we see similar frustrations, as officials work with limitations in budgets, chronic problems with infrastructure and the difficulties of coordinating planning across sector agencies.
The challenge of capturing the experiences and reality of socio-hydrological risk in the megacity is daunting. We hope that we will soon have a decision-platform – the MEGADAPT model — that will allow us to share the knowledge we have collected with the city’s residents. It is through this decision-platform that we hope we will be able to contribute to enhancing the sustainability of the city’s water resources.
A collaborative project seeking to improve capacities for risk management in Mexico City and to serve as a model for climate-change adaptation in developing countries.