Forum 2016 - Infrastructure Space - Detroit (Ruby Press)
125 124 The steepest—and most risk susceptible —topography of Peru’s capital city is home to some of its most economically vulnerable residents. Miho Mazereeuw and Claudia Bode explain how successful management of such a situation is dependent upon non-binary definitions, an openness to the complexity and the acknowledgment that infrastructure is not the sole property of the “formal” city. The vast urban landscape of Lima stretches from the densely built flat plains on the Pacific coast to the perilous terrain of the surrounding mountains. These slopes, which often crumble as people climb them, are host to the majority of city’s lower-in- come residents. This topographic segregation of the population is particularly troubling because Peru is situated in one of the most seismically active regions of the world. Seismolo- gists are concerned about the capital insofar as there has been little seismic activity since the mid-eighteenth cen- tury, a notable gap in tectonic activity, which in all likelihood points to the threat of a significant earthquake in the near future. This prospect notwi- thstanding, and despite the potential hazards of building on steep slopes, informal construction in the form of small brick and wooden homes per- ched on steep hillsides continues unabated, often with little or no infra- structural provisions. This predicament, whereby econo- mically weaker sectors of society are left with few housing options and thus are forced to live on dangerous, mar- ginal land plots, is not unique to Lima. When seen in the context of decrea- sing municipal government investment, the issue of risk in relation to urban poverty becomes all the more pres- sing. This is where the concept of “risk Beyond the Binary: Risk, Governance and Infrastructure Miho Mazereeuw and Claudia Bode Fig. 1: Housing covers the sloped terrain in the Villa María del Triunfo district on the outskirts of Lima. governance” becomes timely and rele- vant, referring to a political framework in which multiple actors are brought together to devise ways of dealing with systemic risk in an adaptive and inte- grative way. 1 This concept builds on Ulrich Beck’s study of what he called “risk societies,” pertaining to societies that require new forms of governance to manage new—and at times unfo- reseeable—threats, such as nuclear fallout or global warming. 2 With this in mind, the risks in Lima’s mountainous periphery raise challenging questions concerning the role of governance in risk-prone and poverty-stricken cont- exts, where officials are disinclined to act and where the poor are dispropor- tionately affected by endemic margina- lization, government oversight, and the ever present threat of natural disas- ters. More to the point, what does risk governance entail in what is essentially a state of exception? The case of Lima foregrounds just this condition and points out the urgent need for synergies aimed at fostering social capacity-building, more responsive governance, more resilient urban structures, and more adaptive infrastructure to reduce risk. After decades of prioritizing large-sca- le infrastructure projects that basically cater to the formal city, alternative me- ans to providing amenities to all sec- tors of society must be sought, which might require a more decentralized and incremental approach to building infrastructure. This process needs to be coupled with a durable organizati- onal framework for citizen governance during the planning and construction Fig. 2: Homes built upon arid slopes in the Ate District of Lima Province. The steepest and most risk-susceptible topography of Peru’s capital city is home to some of its most economically vulnerable residents. Miho Mazereeuw and Claudia Bode address how formal and informal realms might better interact in order to successfully manage the risks associated with building in such contexts. They make a plea for overcoming binary categorizations that tend to keep these two realms separated, acknowledging that infrastructure is not the sole property of the formal city and that true risk governance is not possible without integrated solutions.