Like most urban sustainability initiatives, citizen participation is an essential component for the success of management of the river systems in Colima, Mexico. For this reason, el Instituto de Planeacion para el Municipio de Colima (IPCo) has recognized the need to involve the public in the improvement of the river systems and has identified the Colima River as the first project to be realized in this process.
For the size of the Colima River and the lack of information, IPCo has decided to start with a Pilot Project called “Friends of the Colima River” which involves the collection of information from residents and application of activities in the neighbourhoods of Barrio la Atrevida and Jardines de la Corregidora. These residents are a sample of the total population of Colima and the information gathered will guide future steps towards the recovery of the Colima River.
In the selected region for the pilot project, we separated the two neighbourhoods into four zones. Zone A and B are situated in the neighbourhood of Jardines de la Corregidora, while Zone C and D are situated in the neighbourhood of Barrio la Atrevida. The Colima River runs through the two neighbourhoods in between Zone B and C. The map above shows two green spaces in Zone A and B that represent the public space that is available to use. In Zone B there is also a small section of walking space along the side of the river. The lack of green space shown in Zone C and D is representative of the lack of public space that exists in this neighbourhood. Additionally, it is important to note that there is no open access to the Colima River in Zone C and D.
With regards to the pilot project we chose these two neighbourhoods for their location in the city, their proximity to the river and for the difference in resources (financial, space etc.). Jardines de la Corregidora (Zone A and B) has more public space, less people and more resources (with bigger and more secure houses) than that of Barrio la Atrevida (Zone C and D).
As a first step in the pilot project “Friends of the Colima River,” quantitative and qualitative data was collected through the application of surveys in order to demonstrate the perception the residents had of their neighbourhood in addition to their connection and interaction of the river that runs through their neighbourhood.
Combined, Jardines de la Corregidora and Barrio la Atrevida have a population of 1593 residents. In total we conducted 146 surveys within the two communities giving us an 8% margin of error and a 95% level of confidence.
More than half the people surveyed were adult women between the ages of 25-59 years old. Additionally more than half of the people surveyed stated an occupation of “Housekeeper” or “Retired.” With regards to the level of education a significant difference can be seen between the education levels of each community. In Jardines de la Corregidora, the more affluent neighbourhood, 57% of the population hold a college degree or higher in comparison to Barrio la Atrevida where only 18% of the population obtain post-secondary qualifications
The goal of these surveys was not only to better understand the relationship that residents have with the river and their community but also to learn the differences in perceptions between the two communities with respect to the difference in resources/socio-economic status. Below is highlighted a few examples of what similarities/differences we have found:
|Jardines de la Correcgidora||Barrio la Atrevida|
|# of Residents||512||1081|
|# of Public Spaces||3||0|
|% of people who don’t see any opportunity to have fun in their neighbourhood||20.5 %||51.5 %|
|What you like least about your neighborhood||Insecurity||Traffic and lack of parking|
As mentioned above Jardines de la Corregidora is a more affluent neighbourhood with more public and private space than that of Barrio la Atrevida. One fifth of the population in Jardines de la Corregidora do not see opportunities to enjoy themselves in their neighbourhood while more than half of the people can say the same in Barrio la Atrevida. The access to public space as well as the direct access to the river no doubt has an influence on the amount of opportunities to enjoy one’s neighbourhood.
Residents from Jardines de la Corregidora had a higher preoccupation with the level of insecurity in their neighbourhood. This could potentially be linked to the river, as many residents have stated that the lack of vigilance around the river has provided a space for delinquents to participate in vandalism and drug and alcohol use. With the close proximity of the neighbourhood to the river it is possible that the bad use of the river space could filter into the community itself.
|Jardines de la Correcgidora||Barrio la Atrevida|
|What you like most about your neighbourhood?||Tranquility||Tranquility|
|% of people who feel safe living next to the Colima River||79%||74%|
|% of people who have experienced a mishap with the Colima River||10%||10%|
|% of people who interact with the Colima River||38%||42%|
|% people interested in participating in activities related to the Colima River||83%||75%|
Despite the feeling of insecurity in Jardines de la Corregidora, both communities value the tranquility of their neighbourhood. Additionally they do not see the Colima River to be a threat to their safety and very few have actually experienced a mishap related to the river (for example flooding, sickness etc.). While less than half the population interacts with the river (and those who do, do so only with short walks), two-thirds have an interest in participating more in activities related to the Colima River.
Residents are interested in connecting with the Colima River
The surveys have provided us with some important information to understand what sentiments the people hold towards the river and for what reasons. However, the major finding that we should keep at the forefront is that people are interested in connecting more with this natural resource that runs through their community.
The graph below shows the activities that people are ready to participate in.
Half of the people are interested in walks and garbage collection. Of the few groups that are working with the Colima River already, two groups are doing walks and garbage collection as their primary activities. These activities are therefore easier and more realistic to implement within the community.
- At the start of this project, we assumed that the difference in resources between each community (for example, financial, space etc.) would provide us with drastically different opinions creating a necessity to approach each neighbourhood with different activities and information catering to the needs of each community. What we found was that while the opinions of the residents varied with regards to the perception of the neighbourhood, the two communities mirrored one another in their perception and interaction with the Colima River itself. This signifies that perhaps we don’t need to approach each neighbourhood with different efforts but rather we should ask how we can unite the two neighbourhoods in their interaction and desires for the Colima River.
- In line with the findings there are certain questions we must ask. If the people are open to participating in more activities with the river, how can we use the river as an opportunity to provide enjoyment and increase tranquility within the residents’ community? It is important to remember here that over half the people surveyed identified as housekeepers or retired thus providing us with a population that may have more opportunity or time to interact within their community. Additionally, as there is little vigilance around the river allowing for the bad use of space, how can we promote to the people that more positive use can help restore vigilance and safety within the neighbourhood? Finally, an important question to consider is, will people be more motivated to take care of the river if there is a perceived threat to their health and/or safety? Or is it through more opportunities to interact and create a connection that will inspire people to be more responsible and/or aware?
Next Steps for “Friends of the Colima River”
1. Improve the surveys for the pilot project “Friends of the Colima River”:
- Adapt the surveys for the younger people. Pursue a better representation of children/adolescents and adult/senior males
- Focus the surveys for the houses that are situated directly beside the river in order to see the level of security they have living directly beside to the river
2. Share the findings of the surveys with the residents of both neighbourhoods
3. Start activities in the community (walks, garbage collection)
4. Form a committee of people dedicated to the improvement of the river and also the improvement of the involvement of the residents with the river
5. Spread the information and activities to involve people outside of the pilot project area