Loja – The Ecological City

Taken from Loja's Local Government:    
www.municipiodeloja.gov.ec    

It has been about a decade since Loja´s mayor, Jose Bolivar Castillo, initiated changes in the city. The streets in the center are in good condition, the rivers Malacatos y Zamora that pass through the city are clean, and the central park has become a complex for diversion and learning. This is reflects the success of traffic control, garbage collection and care of the environment.
The mayor is convinced that all this has been achieved because the “lojanos” have been involved in the diagnosis, planning, execution and evaluation of the projects.

The 175,000 inhabitants are proud of international recognition for the city. Among them is third prize as World Ecological City, first place in Civic Participation awarded by the United Nations, and the prize for a Wholesome City awarded by the World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization.

Step by step
During his first term in 1988, Bolivar Castillo began the process that has been termed revolutionary with construction of the Central Market. Within the market are centers for basic goods, bazaars, clothing and shoe shops, thereby eliminating street vendors.
Through support of the population, urban regeneration and architectural restoration was possible, and the municipality only financed repair of streets and walkways.
Loja began to change, but it urban renewal still had to be organized. A six million dollar credit granted by the Chinese government allowed Loja to lance a program to decontaminate the Malacatos y Zamora rivers.
In 1992 Bolivar Castilla took on a university teaching post and four years later was re-elected mayor. Thus, in 1996 the plans for drinking water, sewer system, household classification of garbage and its further recycling were implemented.
Castillo speaks enthusiastically about recycling, with participation of the citizens, by which garbage has been converted into the prime material for organic fertilizer. Only 30% of the waste arrives at the municipal dump and, projected over ten years, this has tripled its life span.

Path of decentralization
The actions of Castillo in the Municipality of Loja are identified by “decentralization”.
Education, health, traffic and transport are under the control of the council. ”Seven municipal schools where we have reinstated a double schedule (morning and afternoon) do not have to envy private establishments,” states the mayor, as he highlights the complement of computers and formative education through business people who provide goods or services under competitive conditions.
In the area of health, with a maternity service, post-natal center and a mobile health unit, the municipality shows the path of decentralization.
Modern non-contaminating buses and clear routes are among the changes in transportation and traffic. The buses are part of an Integrated Urban Transportation System (SITU), which required a five million dollar investment, three-quarters of which is financed through a credit from the Andean Development Corporation and the rest by the municipality.
With regard to traffic, the Municipal Rotating Tariff Parking System (Simert) decongests the city center. Lojanos and tourists can park their vehicles only for a maximum of three hours, with cards of 30 and 60 minutes.

Correcting disadvantages to industries
Although the municipality does road works and keeps the city attractive for the inhabitants, it recognizes that there are problems that should be resolved by the government.
The head of the Chamber of Production of Loja, Patricio León, solicited the president of the country to declare the condition of Loja´s roads as an emergency situation, as they are incommunicado with Cuenca y Zamora because two bridges have collapsed.
The industrialists asked the president to declare the province of Loja a toll and tax free zone, by putting into effect Law 136 and executive decree 1514 that would enable new enterprises and those that improve their production to be exonerated from paying dues for 15 years as well as taxes for the importation of machinery.
Additionally, they request that the seat of the Binational Plan be located in Loja, an organism in which no director or technician is from the region.

More attractions
Tourism is the city´s best card. Tourists begin to arrive at the end of August for the procession of the Virgen of Swans. The president of the Chamber of Tourism, Luis Suárez, draws attention to the colonial architecture, ecotourism, discotheques and, for nature lovers, the National Podocarpus Park, which are among the attractions that visitors can enjoy. As well, they can encounter lodging from ten dollars a person.
Without leaving the city it is possible to enjoy temperate pools and a zoo where the animals roam freely. Jipiro Park has this and more, with an animal population of swans, geese, ducks, flamengoes, ostrich, monkey, a turtle, and a giraffe originally from a Chilean zoo. These attractions are complemented by cybercafe located in a railroad car, a planetarium, and a library located in a castle.
The changes are readily visible and the decision of the Lojanos to seek progress for their city draws attention to the image of Loja at a national level. Bolivar Castillo defends the decentralization and invites the government to do things well or allow local governments to do it, as in Loja.

You are here: Home Past editions Edition #2, March 2004 Loja – The Ecological City

Consultants

Pedro Seijo
Cuban
Professor of Civil Engineering
Spanish, English
Teaching, ecomaterials workshop management, research (municipal waste)

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