By Adriana Clemente, Javier Fernández Castro, Margarita Gutman, Mónica Lacarrieu, Carolina Mera, Ariel Misuraca, Juan Pablo Scaglia, Pedro Senar, Ileana Versace, Vanesa Marassi.
Facultad de Ciencias Sociales (FSOC) and Facultad de Arquitectura, Diseño y Urbanismo (FADU)Universidad de Buenos Aires
The Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires (AMBA), with its almost 12 million inhabitants in 2010, is the second mega-city of South America, after Sao Paulo with 20 million inhabitants, and before Rio de Janeiro with 11 millions. In population it is similar to the metropolitan region of Bangkok (14.600.000) and slightly smaller than New York (18.800.000).
From the political point of view, most of the Latin American countries have undergone transcendental changes in the last decade. Between 2002 and 2012, governments with a progressive profile were elected by a majority in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay and Venezuela. These governments promulgated new policies in favor of the economic growth and social justice. Despite de skepticism of the European and North American view, these changes defined new politic-economic identities in the region.2
Like other Latin American countries, Argentina is an eminently urban country. The last census (2010) showed that 98% of the population lives in cities, being the AMBA the largest built-up urban area, with ten times more population than the second and third largest areas. It contains one third of the total population of the country and about 40% of its total urban population.
In general, the growth of medium and large cities in Argentina was produced at the expense of smaller settlements and dispersed rural population (peasants not owners or small farmers). The logic of the growth of the cities by the expulsive effect of the regional economies has resulted in the concentration of masses of poverty and richness that renders the coexistence in the city conflictive. The inequalities are obscenely exposed in the urban weave that, in the Argentine case, is the worst legacy inherited from over 30 years of neoliberal reforms that culminated in the deep economic and social crisis of 2001.
Although it takes up only 1% of the national territory, the AMBA is responsible for 50% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the country, rendering the AMBA the largest center for the industrial, commercial and service activities.3 The population growth has decreased during the last decades, but it is expected that it will continue to increase in absolute values, estimated in one more million inhabitants for the next decade, with the consequent demand for new jobs, infrastructure and residential spaces.
There is not a centralized administrative authority for the AMBA, which is made up by the Federal Capital and 24 municipalities with their own elected authorities.4 These municipalities are arranged in three concentric rings surrounding the Capital, following a tentacular pattern defined by the communication roads, with densities decreasing from the center to the periphery.
The city of Buenos Aires is located in the upper part of the river Rio de La Plata, near the confluence of the rivers Parana and Uruguay, important waterways towards the interior of the territory. It is located on a flatland, with minimum unevenness that does not reach the 30 meters, and it is crossed by two basins of flatland rivers that drain into the Rio de La Plata. That and other streams that run along the territory are all the geographical accidents of the Metropolitan Area.
However, due to the magnitude and type of urban growth, it does not get rid of the environmental pollution. And the areas of lesser resources are the ones that suffer the most said pollution by settling on more vulnerable lands. The slums are located mainly in lands prone to flooding at the sides of the water basins. The AMBA contains nowadays in its territory the widest inequalities in the country, concentrating inside the richest economic sector as well as the poorest.
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