We departed from the international airport, naïve travelers as we drove through the streets of Lima. The traffic is unbearable in the heart off the city – the only traffic patterns followed are stop signs and traffic lights, and even these are enforced liberally. The streets are packed with vehicles much like Anchoveta in a can. Car horns blaring, break lights flashing, billboards sparkling: these were all aspects of the night drive to Casa Andina.
The next morning we had the opportunity to tour a shopping center in Lima with our friends Alejandra, Chio, and Alejo. The walk there consisted of touring a calmer portion of the city, a residential area. We passed though a park, equipped with trash cans and recycling bins. I noticed very little litter on the streets, which I believe is due in part to the quantity of individuals who work as street sweepers. On every street it was possible to see at least one individual adorned in blue, broom and dust pan in hand. After commenting on this, Chio informed me of how clean Lima is, one of the reasons why she enjoys this city compared to others. However, I question her standard of cleanliness for a city.
While there may not be trash strewn about the streets, there are arguably more dangerous pollutants in this city of 8 million. Poorly processed or raw sewage is funneled into the Pacific Ocean, which wreaks havoc on more than just the aquatic environment. Residents still swim in discharge areas which is a toxic bath for these individuals. This pollution may lead to overnutrification of areas with little flushing action, thus leading to dead zones. In addition, this toxic water makes contact with the shore, contaminating water supplies. This may be a contributing factor to the use of bottled water opposed to tap water. While this is a pressing issue, there does not appear to be much in place to update their human waste disposal program, which has inevitable consequences.
Lima is an expanding city. While it is densely populated centrally, there are branches reaching out to become squatter settlements. Simple wooden shacks pop up and create city-like environments, strewn along main roads. This results in more land and house development, more people, and more pollution. The carrying capacity is going to cap in the future, as the government focuses on making a profit and not the environment. It is more importatnt to bring money into the country than it is to ensure the country is not unnecessairly polluting waterways. Few sustainable practices are implemented for this particular issue, and a push for the cross-disciplinary approach of development of the city and use of sustainable technologies needs to be made. Part of the issue is the economic status of Peru and the modes of obtaining income, which we discussed prior to arriving in Peru with Dr. Wade.
Peru has become an upper to middle class income country, with more than half of Peru’s gross domestic product derived from services. We greatly contributed to this throughout our two weeks, as tourism is a large portion of this employment sector. The country has also decreased its poverty rate immensenly, yet there are still many inequalities between rural areas and cities. For example the overall poverty rate is around 54%, while in Lima it is just 15.7%. This makes it difficult to implement environmental laws, becuase not all areas could abide by it, or afford the technology required to help solve the environmental issue. Using the sewage example again, it would be incredibly difficult to fund the installment of proper sewage treatment plants in Lima, and even more difficult to implement them in rural areas. Yet if it was affordable, this would create new job sector and bring more individuals out of poverty. This conversation must be brought to the table in order to help elevate Peru’s status as a country, in respect to development and sustainability.