World Cities Day China Observance / Shanghai Award

Barranquilla, Columbia |  Updated:2023-11-08

Located on the northern coast of Colombia, Barranquilla is a major city in the Caribbean region of Colombia and the fourth most populous city in the country. Its economy currently accounts for 18% of industrial-added value of the country’s Caribbean region.

The city has a rich cultural heritage, a vibrant arts scene and a strong sense of identity, fostering a cohesive community that values its collective past and future. Barranquilla benefits from a mature workforce that promotes innovation and supports the development of different industries, including manufacturing, services and tourism. The city’s natural environment, including the Magdalena River and nearby Caribbean coastline, offers opportunities for sustainable tourism, renewable energy and environmental protection.

Barranquilla’s sustainable development strategy goes beyond green infrastructure and environmental strategies. One of the four pillars of its local development plan, Biodiverse Cities Strategy proposes a model of urban-regional, economic, and social growth based on the city’s strategic ecosystems, their conservation and connectivity, and the environmental determinants presented by local authorities. It focuses on the recovery of strategic ecosystems; blue structure recovery for adequate management of water resources; a low-carbon urban and economic pattern, reduced waste generation and low waste disposal; and increasing the city's resilience to climate change and environmental risks. These goals enable sustainable development through biodiversity conservation and resource optimization, replacing traditional approaches that focus solely on reducing emissions. 

Specifically, the Todos al Parque project aims to transform public spaces into vibrant community hubs, a milestone in the city’s pursuit of sustainable urban development. Its success is due to its differentiated, participatory and inclusive approach, which promotes strong collaboration between government, private sector, civil society and local communities. This project tripled the surface area of available public space per person in 10 years.

The Cienaga de Mallorquín Ecological Park is another flagship project of the Biodiverse Cities Strategy. It prioritizes building urban safety and resilience, involving an estimated investment of $150 million in reducing pollution from agricultural and industrial sources; reforesting the wetland; improving water quality; restoring fish and wildlife populations; creating new ecotourism opportunities; strengthening local governance; and raising awareness of the importance of the wetland. It is an outstanding example of ecosystem restoration and conservation efforts.

Gran Malecón del Río represents an important leap forward in resilient infrastructure for the city. Construction began in 2016 as a brownfield development in an area heavily polluted by local industry. Today, it has become a leisure and cultural center with a linear length of more than 5 kilometers, connecting commercial, economic and other urban vitality nodes with the Gran Malecón.

Initiatives prioritized low-income areas and the quality of social services, public goods and the inclusiveness of social production were improved, resulting in Barranquilla’s inequality rate falling by 6% between 2020 and 2021.

Biodiversity is a concept in its own right, providing cities with a framework for enhancing nature and biodiversity to increase resilience to climate change and promote urban development and growth. The concept spurred an international collaboration with Colombia to promote a highly ambitious global initiative: Biodiverse Cities by 2030. Barranquilla established the Latin America and the Caribbean Network of Biodivercities in December 2021, leveraging its leadership and success in planning and implementing long-term initiatives for sustainable urban development.

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