BOGOTA, Colombia — Since 1998, the Colombian city of Bogotá has undergone major upgrades in multiple sectors of urban infrastructure, thanks to large-scale international investments primarily through the World Bank.
Now the city serves as a prime example of the effectiveness of international aid. “Between 2004 and 2014, the [Bogotá Urban Services Project (BUSP)] supported the expansion and modernization of water supply and sanitation networks, increasing access, coverage, quality, reliability, and inter-agency coordination in the provision of water, sanitation, transport and related basic services,” the World Bank reported in August.
These improvements have benefited the lives of the city’s substantial urban poor population. Prior to the upgrades, the poor citizens of Bogotá lived in overpopulated conditions, often large slums that lacked basic urban services, such as water, sanitation, electricity and public transportation.
These issues compounded civil unrest, including crime and violence. The city experienced an average of 19 murders per 100,000 inhabitants each year. This physical insecurity was worsened by a crushing economic insecurity, with residents facing high unemployment and underemployment rates, reaching levels of 10.4 percent and 37.1 percent, respectively.
In the 1990s the government began a series of development projects to solve these problems and BUSP was formed. In the area of transportation, the program has positively impacted the commutes of more than 300 people a day and shaved 25 percent of transit time off of the overall city commute.
But the largest improvements have been made at the residential level. More than one million city residents have benefited from the 55 urban space upgrade projects throughout the city – especially those that have focused on low-income slums.
Across the city, 89 non-legalized slums, known as barrios, were made legal and incorporated with public information offices established within them. This legalization and legitimization of the neighborhoods gave residents a political voice in their communities and helped to increase participation and reduce crime.
In addition, an estimated 120,000 people benefited from new water lines and 450,000 benefited from new sewage connections, raising the level of water and sewer connectivity to 99 percent throughout the city for the urban poor.
Despite the huge advancements that Bogotá has achieved so far, city planners and aid investors aren’t finished improving the urban landscape.
“As a result of the successful implementation of mass transit project, the city administration has prioritized a sustainable transport program that aims to improve mobility conditions in the short and medium-term: the first one is the full integration of public transit system (named Sistema Integrado de Transporte Publico—SITP), namely the integration between the existing BRT network – Transmilenio- and the traditional bus system, and second, the construction of Bogotá’s first Metro Line, which will also be conceived as the first rail component to be integrated (in terms of tariff, operations, and infrastructure components) to the SITP in the future,” the World Bank said in August.
The city of Bogotá, with the assistance of investment aid, has improved the lives of the urban poor. Although the future success of these development projects is still unclear, the thousands of families that have already benefited from the program remain as a shining testament for what invested aid can accomplish.