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La futura ciudad recibe su nombre por los 200 años de Independencia del Perú que se celebrarán en 2021. Photo: Perú Construye.
The future city is named after the 200th anniversary of Peru's independence, which will be celebrated in 2021. Photo: Perú Construye.

Ciudad Bicentenario: The first city of the 21st century will be built in Peru

With an investment of $3 billion and built in the desert, the city is billed as the solution to the "chaotic" growth of the country.

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If something doesn't go as expected, try doing the opposite. This is, in a few words, is what Peruvian government is trying in the face of "disastrous" growth of cities such as Lima, its capital and the fifth largest city in Latin America. Leadership has decided to stop the country's growth in an unbridled way and instead do so in a way that respects the landscape. 

"Now we are going to try the opposite way in the decision-making process: from top to bottom, instead of bottom to top as we have done up to now," Gabriel Quijandría, the deputy minister for strategic development of natural resources at the Ministry of the Environment, told EFE.

Quijandría was in charge of presenting a project so ambitious that it has no precedent and could lead Peru to being a pioneer in creating the pure city of the 21st century, one that instead of "invading" nature makes its more than 150,000 future residents "live" in it. 

This is the sustainable purpose behind the design of Ciudad Bicentenario, named after Peru's 200th anniversary of independence to be celebrated in 2021, which will be built from "zero" just outside of Lima. 

"Is it ambitious? Without a doubt, because it is an unprecedented experience for the Peruvian State, but it is going to be a formidable challenge," Quijandría said in reference to the macro project that has around a $3 billion investment and will be built on a space of more than 8,000 hectares of public property — the last of those dimensions remaining in the metropolitan area of Lima. 

An "intelligent" city

Rather than thinking it means high-tech, it's actually in reference to being environmentally sustainable, resilient to climate change and above all, "livable."

Since the capital is not. At least with regard to the way in it has expanded in recent years, with a population explosion that has brought it to 10 million inhabitants. 

It's a phenomenon that is partly due to the massive migration from regions such as the Andes, where its people have been fleeing since the 1980s from armed conflicts unleashed by terrorist organizations such as the Shining Path. But it is also due to other types of internal migrants — those who seek a more prosperous life outside the suburbs of other regions of the country and are the protagonists of what is known as "invasions." In other words, when these people arrive in Lima, they occupy the hills and build unhealthy housing far from any service and are at the mercy of land traffickers. 

The problem is now an election talking point, and in times of municipal elections, it is rare for a candidate not to promise light, water and property contracts to the desperate neighbors of the desert, causing a greater and more rapid expansion — although precarious — of the cities. 

On the other hand, these urbanizations are behind the very serious floods suffered in Peru during El Niño, in 2017, which caused great torrents known as "huaicos" in Quechua.

Although the construction of a city in the middle of nowhere makes one think of countries in the Middle East, like the majestic artificial megalopolises like Dubai, for the government, there is a fundamental difference. 

"The Emirates' projects are a creation in the nothingness of something quite artificial. (...) Here the idea is that the city is integrated with the landscape, something that has not happened in Lima, where the landscape has been invaded in very inadequate areas," recalled Gabriel Quijandría.

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