Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic: Río Yaque

Restoration of a river and its surroundings via flood prevention, public space improvements, and revitalization of a historic center

Founded as a fort by Christopher Columbus in 1495, today the metro region of the city of Santiago de los Caballeros is home to over 850,000 people, making it the second-largest city in the Dominican Republic. Well-connected to both a major port just to the north and to the surrounding agricultural lands, the growing city is a key location for the nation’s largest export industries and the processing of key commodities.

Project Background

The Yaque River crosses the length of Santiago de los Caballeros, and, at 308km, is the longest river in the country. It provides the main source of water for the city and the surrounding Cibao Valley agricultural region, as well as for an important hydro-dam complex. The river is essential to the city, dictating its physical and social space and serving as its most emblematic natural asset. However, for years the environmental management of this watershed has been poor, and the river and its banks are quite polluted.

In recognition of the potential for the Yaque to be a strategic ecologic corridor for Santiago, a major priority of the city’s resilience agenda is to undertake a series of transformative actions to recover the river and its banks and improve the quality of life of Santiago’s residents. The projects envisioned for the redevelopment of the Yaque River include storm water drainage and flood risk mitigation, reforestation and recovery of environmental assets, and the revitalization of the infrastructure and urban habitat of the river basin, including through the city’s downtown historic center.

Project Resilience Value and Impact

The Yaque River project crosses the city, encompassing an area of 11km/930 Ha, and will directly impact the 25,000 residents along the river bank, particularly the eleven communities (7,000 people) living in high-risk flood zones, some of which will need to be resettled.

Resilience is built into this project from the outset, with explicit resilience-related requirements added to all bids and RFPs. The city’s vision for the upgraded corridor will benefit all residents, offering cleaner water, new green and leisure areas, a rehabilitated downtown, improved social cohesion, and increased economic opportunity.

The ultimate goal of Resilient Santiago is for the revitalization of the Yaque River to mark a new path of development and create a more resilient, safe, and inclusive city.

Project Status and Opportunity

The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) has funded preliminary project design needs and impact assessments. The overall revitalization of the Yaque River has an estimated cost of US$80 million, and includes coordinated interventions in three distinct areas along the river:

  1. North Park and Nicolás Vargas Reserve: efforts will include: retaining dike and sustainable urban drainage systems for flood risk management; reforestation of native species to enhance the river ecosystem; creation of a gateway that connects with the Gurabo tributary, thereby consolidating the green belt.
  2. Yaque Ecological Corridor : efforts will include: delineation of green paths; areas for leisure use and athletic facilities; bicycle lanes and mobility features; reclassification of land for multi-family and social housing; construction of an emblematic 4,500m2 building.
  3. Mirador Yaque: efforts will include: construction of a multi-function plaza; market and culinary venues; undergrounding; pedestrianization of streets and street furniture; provision of urban services (public lighting, public safety, and containerization of waste); restoration of historic facades.

For more information or to get involved: 
Maria Isabel Serrano Dina, Chief Resilience Officer mserrano@ayuntamientosantiago.gob.do