Montevideo, Uruguay: Pantanoso Stream Basin

Holistic socio-economic regeneration of a degraded stream basin via sustainable environmental management and community-focused investments

The southernmost capital city in the Americas, Montevideo is situated on the northeastern bank of the Río de la Plata. The over 1.3M inhabitants of the city enjoy what has been rated the highest quality of life in South America, with nearly double the per capita GDP of the country overall. About 60% of the city’s territory is rural, and while tourism has more recently become a major economic driver, the most important sources of income in Montevideo remain agriculture and livestock.

Project Background

The Pantanoso Stream Basin covers approximately 77 km2 in the centerwest of Montevideo before emptying into the bay, and is a major hub of food production for the country. The stream crosses through diverse zones, from agriculturally productive rural areas to more consolidated residential zones and a number of irregular settlements.

The Pantanoso Stream Basin faces interrelated socio-economic and environmental challenges. Claiming around 195,000 people — 15% of the city’s total population — nearly a third of Pantanoso households fall below the poverty line, making certain neighborhoods within the Basin among the neediest of the city.

The zone is characterized by a lack of investment, a shortage of employment opportunities, high rates of human capital flight, poor education, low housing standards, low social and community capital, and a lack of public infrastructure, connectivity, and green space. Environmental problems include poor air and water quality, inadequate solid waste management, degraded landscapes, and high flood risk. These challenges are interrelated, as the informal settlements of the area contribute to the water and air pollution, while the flood risk and perception of the area as generally degraded discourages needed new investment.

Project Resilience Value and Impact

Comprehensively ameliorating the interdependent stresses of the Pantanoso Basin will require resilience thinking. Successful intervention in Pantanoso will have a direct impact on the lives of residents, and will improve the natural environment, water quality, and economy of the entire city of Montevideo. The city’s vision is for the Pantanoso River Basin to become an attractive place for new investment while enhancing social cohesion in the existing community. The planning process must therefore include substantive consultations with relevant stakeholders, especially the poor and vulnerable, and global best practices for further resettlement of irregular settlements as required due to flood risk.

Project Status and Opportunity

Montevideo has conducted some initial assessments that articulate five symbiotic pathways for the investment of an estimated US$500 million in the Pantanoso Basin:

  • Environment: Montevideo will pursue improved air and water quality, landscape restoration, biodiversity protection, maintenance of wetland environmental services, and flood risk reduction. Specific infrastructure needs include: channel management, tie conditioning of bridges and culverts, reversion of critical fillings, forecast of laminations, and expansions of the sanitation and drainage system.
  • Economic competitiveness: The city hopes to attract investment into private industry, education, and tourism. The principles of a circular economy offer a particular opportunity for achieving sustainable economic growth in this region, and the city seeks partners and funding to pursue relevant technologies and business models.
  • Social equity: Pantanoso has significant needs for investment in new housing and in improvements to existing housing stock, for construction of new public recreational spaces, and for partnerships that will strengthen community and foster a local identity.
  • Connectivity: Montevideo has an extensive bus network that serves the Basin, and so is seeking mobility investments in new pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, as well as new bridges over the watercourses in Pantanoso.
  • Communication and engagement: The city seeks support for designing and implementing the process of consultation and citizen participation for the creation of the Pantanoso Plan, and in preparing a communication plan for the process that aligns with the agenda of the mayor and other key stakeholders and institutions.

For more information or to get involved: 
Gabriella Feola, Chief Resilience Officer |gabriella.feola@imm.gub.uy