Jonathan Denis-Jacob is one of current CIDA IYIP interns based in Colima. His work focuses on Community and Urban Planning.
The city of Colima, Mexico is now geared up for a new Official Plan. The Colima Institute of Planning (Instituto de Planeación para el Municipio de Colima or IPCo in Spanish) is leading the elaboration of the new Official plan, expected to be completed by the end of 2011. As a 2011 Sustainable Cities International intern, I’m thrilled to be the one responsible for carrying it forward.
The revision of the Official Plan has been a major issue in Colima over the past few years as the last one was published in 1981. Under Mexican planning law, municipalities are not clearly required to update their planning instrument on a pre-defined basis. Rather, the decision is up to local elected officials and stakeholders. This is what occurred in Colima; in his first year in office, the Mayor called for the revision of the planning instrument to collect important information about the main actions to be taken throughout the Municipality. Supported by local stakeholders, the decision was rapidly adopted.
One of the main priorities of the new Official Plan is to revisit the relationship between the urban and rural areas of the Municipality. Traditionally, the rural area has tended to be left behind by local authorities which tended to favour interventions in the urbanized area. Yet, Colima is both genuinely urban and rural in nature. Over 95% of the Municipality’s 150 000 residents live in the urban area which occupies no more than 5% of its vast territory (over 668.2 square km). The majority of the land within the municipal boundaries is therefore rural and not currently covered by a proper planning instrument.
Consequently, in addition to Municipality-wide studies and analyses, the plan will include a secondary plan for five rural communities with the largest populations (those between 350 to 1600 people). The rationale behind these plans is to develop a comprehensive “urban” planning strategy, encompassing a strong community participation component, for each community. The planning strategy will ultimately be formalized as a local planning instrument.
It is the first time that an urban planning process takes place in rural communities of Colima. Traditionally, the emphasis has been placed merely on rural development. This time around, our goal is to use an urban planning approach to achieve the consolidation of these rural population nodes. In fact, several of these rural communities already act as a central place for a vast rural hinterland.
The two first steps of the participatory planning process has now been completed (Diagnostic and Visioning) at the end of March. We also held a series of workshops specifically aimed at the youth in each community. A third and last round of participatory workshops will be held in May to present the master plan and develop an implementation strategy.
The participatory workshops have been instrumental in clearly identifying the priorities and to develop a vision for the future. Although some basic needs are still to be fulfilled to consolidate the communities, particularly access to clean water, housing improvement, formal land ownership and sewage, very interesting urban projects have also emerged. New public spaces, community centers and improved public realm are some of the promising projects identified.
The goal of a stronger urban-rural integration within the Municipality of Colima remains ambitious and will not materialize overnight. However, this process is a promising first step for the assertion of rural communities in the spatial and economic landscape of the Municipality.