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Saturday26 July 2014

Galapagos plans town expansion

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Prince’s Foundation helps draw up codes for islands’ sustainable growth

The Prince’s Foundation is drawing up sustainable building codes and sample plans for a 63ha urban extension to the Galapagos Islands’ biggest town.

The volcanic archipelago, made famous by Charles Darwin in the 19th century, is home to around 30,000 people — up from 2,000 in 1959 — as well as the many animals and birds for which it is celebrated.

The local authority granted permission for the islands’ largest town, Puerto Ayora, to double in size, with a new development of 1,150 new homes called El Mirador. Plots have already been sold to residents.

Concerned about the effect on the fragile eco-system, the Charles Darwin Foundation and Galapagos Conservation Trust asked the Prince’s Foundation to advise on how the development could be done in a way that reduced its impact on wildlife.

The foundation has carried out one scoping study and two workshops attended by hundreds of locals. And next month it will open a project office with a staff of two.
The chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation, Hank Dittmar, said it was a fascinating project to be involved in.

“You could make an argument that people shouldn’t live there and we wouldn’t go there unless the conservationists were convinced this was going to happen,” he said.“These issues are happening all over the world so we thought it was a great chance to make an exemplar that could be helpful in other places.

“We have been working with the people who own the plots and are going to be building houses to come up with ways of dealing with drainage and waste.

“We are providing sample plans and building and urban codes for the local jurisdiction and will provide technical assistance to the contractors.”

The foundation’s building codes will encourage simple designs and passive climate control where possible. One of the tasks of the project office will be to establish whether the “default” breeze block could be replaced with local materials without creating a market for a quarrying industry.

Dittmar said they had had a lot of interest from the locals.

“It’s interesting because most of the people living there come from mainland Ecuador to work in the eco-tourism industry,” he said. “They bring a building culture with them that needs to be adapted to an island climate.”

Prince Charles is taking a personal interest in the project, having visited the Galapagos in 2009 during a tour of South America which coincided with the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • I visited Santa Cruz on the Galapgos earlier this year and saw a presentation of this appalling new development that could fit anywhere in north america. There really is barely nothing sustainable or ecological about this project and it should be stopped. They don't need to expand this town, rip up the landscape (already happened), as there is so much available land for densification in the settlement- and they need to implement real eco strategies to supply the basics of sanitation, clean water and renewable energy. The towns inhabitants who have little clue about real eco development or human adaptation, and would like more space to bring in relatives and friends from the mainland of Ecuador, but this project will only add to their increasing problems of inhabitation on the islands. AS

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  • Andrew's comment is spot on. The only point to add is that Galapagos is a World Heritage Site (WHS) - declared a few years ago to be a WHS "in danger" through the growth of tourism and development.
    John Pavitt

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