By Sebastian Rosemont and Cam Wejnert-Depue
Earth Day Network spoke with Lima, Peru, Mayor Jorge Muñoz Wells to discuss the city’s work to support biodiversity and the important role the Pantanos de Villa wildlife refuge plays in that effort. Restoration and conservation initiatives have also led to many great advances in the city, including a 47,000 square meter Botanical Garden, which provides essential environmental services, and an effort to create and support new conservation areas in the city’s ecologically vital coastal hills.
What’s the biggest success story in your city about increasing biodiversity?
Pantanos de Villa is the only wildlife refuge in Lima. In 1997, they were declared wetlands of international importance (Ramsar site) due to its landscape, biological and cultural values and its great diversity of birds. In 1998, the Municipality of Lima created the Municipal Authority of the Pantanos de Villa (PROHVILLA) to protect and manage the aquifer system. The Pantanos was established as a Protected Natural Area in 2006. In this protected area, people can find tourist attractions that include, within the five natural water mirrors, about 210 species of birds, 13 of fish, 5 of amphibians and reptiles, among others.
Parque de las Leyendas is not only one of the most important zoos in Peru because of its extensive zoological and botanical collection, it is also an important historical site for the 54 archaeological sites it houses, some dating back as far as 2000 years. In 2001, Parque de las Leyendas inaugurated a 47,000 square meter Botanical Garden. This space provides essential environmental services, such as a bank of vegetative material for conservation purposes and also as a refuge for local fauna. Workshops, courses, and exhibitions are offered in this place to educate visitors about the importance and preservation of local and international nature.
Likewise, through propagation programs of native plants and cactuses, it has been possible to propagate plant species that are in the conservation category. This group of plants is a first step for the creation of a reserve to restore natural habitats.
What role do green spaces play in your city for species and humans alike? How is the city working to expand them?
In Metropolitan Lima, green areas such as bushes, flowers, and trees play an indispensable role in the survival and diversity of different animal species. Thanks to the flowers and certain shrubs, bees proliferate as pollinating agents, the same happens with hummingbirds. Similarly, green areas have become spaces to qualify the adverse effects of human intervention and regulate the urban microclimate and noise.
To date, the Service of Parks of Lima (Serpar) is working in the generation of urban forests, turning sandy areas into green spaces in the case of our Ecological Forest of the North, where 34 hectares of sand were reforested; and the Ecological Forest of the South, where we have recovered four hectares of abandoned landfill.
On the other hand, through our tree planting program “Árboles para Lima” by 2022 our goal is to plant two million trees of different species. This quantity will be delivered through agreements with municipal districts that request them.
The role of the Pantanos de Villa in our city is to house about 210 species of birds, of which on average there are 90 resident species, 40 migrant species, and the rest occasional. It also fulfills the function of capturing and storing nearly 80 thousand tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), contributing to the mitigation of climate change.
What did your city plan for Earth Day?
For Earth Day 2019, in the Pantanos de Villa, the First Bird Watching Camp was held. Among the planned activities were five sessions of sighting and registration of birds guided by specialists; as well as round tables to talk about various issues related to ecosystems, and the biological diversity of Peru.
On Monday, April 22, from the Municipality of Lima, we inaugurated the first Organic Waste Recovery Plant in partnership with the I.E. School. No. 103 “Luis Armando Cabello Hurtado.” So far this year, this space has achieved the production of 1 ton of compost and 1.5 of humus, destined for three school gardens, and 81 families of the Cercado de Lima that develop compost composters in their homes within the framework of the program Recycle Lima.
Similarly, the Park Service of the Municipality of Lima (Serpar), in the company of schoolchildren, planted more than three hundred trees in the Ecological Forest of the South. The Park Service also provided eco-environmental workshops and developed a sample of recycled works with an environmental focus.
What types of species are present in your city?
Pantanos de Villa harbor around 85 native species of birds, and three native species of rodents.
Parque de las Leyendas houses more than 200 different species of fauna, divided into four zones: Coast, Sierra [mountain], Selva [rainforest], and International. [The park includes some of] the most representative and typical species [of the zones]. Likewise, endemic species such as the “Gecko de las huacas,” a species threatened at present and of global importance, are kept within the Park. Also, the Park hosts species of flora typical of the coastal ecosystem such as succulents and Lomas plants, among which are endemic species such as the Flor de Amancaes (Ismene amancaes), a species whose habitats are continuously threatened by the pollution generated by the disposal of waste and the land invasions.
What kinds of natural habitats are present in your community? How do these habitats add to character of the city and how are you working to protect them?
The National Forestry and Wildlife Service – SERFOR has cataloged 19 coastal hills located throughout Metropolitan Lima. These fragile ecosystems are the wild corridors of the coast, which in winter turn naturally green due to the amount of humidity concentrated in the environment. These ecosystems are temporary shelters of different species which, among their ecological functions, purify the air of the city.
Currently, the Municipality of Lima and other Metropolitan Institutions are working on the creation of the Regional Conservation Area on five hills in which conservation, reforestation, cultural and eco-tourism projects are being carried out. Likewise, the Metropolitan Environmental Commission has a Metropolitan Technical Group for the Management and Conservation of Ecosystems, where work tables are being held to coordinate actions in defense and conservation of the hills. Unfortunately, the free sale of land and invasions threatens these ecosystems.
On the other hand, Metropolitan Lima hosts wetlands such as the Pantanos de Villa, considered as one of the lungs of the city and home to more than 200 species of local and migratory birds, as well as marine ecosystems that go along our entire coastline.
More about the Green Cities Spotlight Series: By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Increasing urbanization without responsible stewardship is a threat to local flora and fauna. With cities growing at a rapid pace, they play a critical role in protecting biodiversity and educating the public about the importance of species and biodiversity in regard to community health and well-being. Earth Day Network’s new city series highlights the important work cities around the world are doing to support biodiversity through a variety of innovative initiatives.
More about Jorge Muñoz Wells: The Peruvian lawyer and politician has been the Mayor of Lima since January 2019. He is an executive, with more than 20 years of experience in municipal management. Before being elected as Mayor of Lima he was mayor of the Municipality District of Miraflores (2011 – 2018). As mayor of Lima, his Government Plan is focused on three crucial areas; citizen security, sustainable transport, and public waste. He has the desire to transform the city of Lima, into a sustainable city where will be pleasant to live.
This interview is part of Earth Day Network’s Green Cities interview series with local officials. The series in 2019 will highlight success stories and innovative biodiversity initiatives in cities around the world for the Protect Our Species campaign. If you have any comments or if you are a city official interested in participating in the interview series and sharing your city’s initiatives, please contact Sebastian Rosemont, Green Cities Coordinator, at [email protected]
Photo Credit: Avodrocc