Rebuild or build something new?

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Victim of winds of unusual strength, Acapulco has been virtually destroyed.

However, the impact of Otis It should be used to recognize that the population centers located on the country's 11,000 kilometers of coastline – where some 13 million people live – are highly vulnerable to meteorological phenomena like this, which will probably increase in frequency and strength due to the effect of change. climate.

That means thinking about what to do with Acapulco. Should the damage be patched, dusted off and moved on? Or is a comprehensive rethinking of the port necessary, which could serve as a basis for other coastal cities to become better protected and more livable for all?

Yesterday I spoke at Radio Image with Francisco Solares Alemán, president of the Mexican Chamber of the Construction Industry, who is of the second opinion. “It should be considered not to rebuild Acapulco, but to build a new Acapulco, one that would be resilient, because this type of phenomenon, unfortunately, is very possible that it could be repeated with greater frequency and, we hope not, with greater intensity and greater damage.”

If this vision is adopted, Mexico would not have to be a pioneer. Cities like Miami, Florida, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, have been in an effort to adapt to global warming for years and could share the accumulated experience.

After 1992, when hurricane Andrew caused more than half a billion dollars in losses in Miami – especially from a five-meter storm surge – the city has taken measures to protect itself, including a massive mangrove restoration project and the construction of barriers to prevent flooding. The ongoing investment exceeds eight billion dollars.

In San Juan, a city that has suffered the impact of various hurricanes - such as Mariain 2017, and Fiona, in 2022–, an architecture designed to withstand powerful storms has been developed. Architecture firms and construction companies, such as Marvel and Icon, use 3D printers, curve walls and use alternative construction materials to increase the strength of buildings.

In the interview, the engineer German Solar He proposed using the mapping of the destruction in Acapulco to know what things would have to be discarded forever. For example, he said, there are places in the port where settlements and roads should no longer be allowed, due to the danger they represent. Likewise, prohibit spectacular advertisements such as those that collapsed due to the force of the winds.

I fear that the rush to get Acapulco “on its feet” again may ruin the possibility of building something different. The mark of the National Palace is haste, as seen this week with the president's statement Andrés Manuel López Obrador that the port will have recovered by next Christmas, in about 50 days.

None of the sector leaders and experts I have spoken to since the impact of Otis believe that such a thing is achievable. Solar There is no doubt that there could be massive tourist activity before two years or that reconstruction will take less than five.

A different plan, to renew Acapulco, should be alien to electoral logic. Of course, we must give help to hundreds of thousands of people who are homeless and without sustenance, but the federal government seems to want to solve it only with cash transfers and, from that, each person can take care of their hardships to the best of their knowledge and ability. understand.

A comprehensive vision is required, which should incorporate the construction of temporary housing for those who have lost everything or live in unhealthy and/or unsafe areas – which are just waiting to be devastated by the next earthquake or hurricane – until their relocation occurs.

Patching Acapulco is only perpetuating the poor urban planning that created one city for the poor and another for the rich and a great danger for both.

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Nathan Rivera
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