Bogota Urban Land Use Management and Flood Risk Reduction

BY EDM | 14 APR 2017
Case study on the Bogotá Development Plan 2012-2016, titled Bogotá Humana.
Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, has a population of 9 million people and is the center of the country’s administrative, financial, cultural and service life. Bogotá is located on a savanna, 2,600 meters above sea level, on the eastern Andean mountain range. The city is crossed by rivers and surrounded by wetlands and mountains.

Despite its growing reputation as a global and progressive city, Bogotá still faces social and economic challenges. The lack of affordable housing has pushed the growing population into unplanned settlements in hazardous areas characterized by steep slopes, ravines and floodways—all subject to landslides and daily floods. Unplanned development and inadequate land use planning (such as mining activities on hillsides) has amplified flood risk by increasing impervious surfaces and reducing natural vegetation and forests. In 2015, 18% of the urbanized area in Bogotá consisted of informal settlements (about 368,000 dwellings), housing almost 1.4 million people.

Over the last two decades, Bogotá has actively embraced an alternative vision of urban development and land use planning that prioritizes climate change mitigation and adaptation. As a result, land use planning has become the primary vehicle for addressing disaster risk management. The Bogotá Development Plan 2012-16, titled Bogotá Humana, prioritizes integrating flood risk management, disaster risk reduction, and climate mitigation and adaptation into its land use planning while still encouraging social and economic gains. Techniques in the plan include providing open spaces and parks to reduce stormwater runoff, restoring water bodies and forested areas, and improving land use planning and regulations.

As part of the Bogotá Humana plan, the Altos de la Estancia project was implemented through partnerships between the Institute for Risk Management and Climate Change (IDIGER), the Botanical Garden of Bogota, and the UNESCO Chair on Sustainability at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. This project highlights how land use planning and regulation can achieve multiple benefits, including disaster risk reduction and flood risk management. The primary project objective was to turn a flood- and landslide-prone neighborhood into an urban park to promote safer, healthier land uses, and prevent encroachment by new residents. Through a participatory process, the city government of Bogotá successfully resettled approximately 3,000 households (more than 17,000 people) into new neighborhoods, stabilized slopes through soil restoration and vegetation, and improved drainage. The high-risk neighborhood of Altos de la Estancia is now a 180-acre (73-hectare) urban park, which provides open and recreational space for surrounding communities, increases stormwater retention, and reduces disaster risk. The Bogotá Humana plan and the Altos de la Estancia project are both widely viewed as successes and generated significant co-benefits through the practice ofparticipatory land use planning.

In this instance, the authorities in Bogota took a corrective measure known as preventive resettlement, which is the relocation of populations that are situated in high-risk areas. Such a measure must be used as a last resort when it is impossible to mitigate risk factors associated with natural disasters such as landslides or severe flooding. Some of the social and cultural impacts of displacement that need to be mitigated when designing a resettlement program include: the loss of social networks; psycho-social anxiety associated with displacement; budgeting issues like loss of income during the resettlement process or increases in taxes and fees; and disruptions in host communities, especially if there is stigmatization attached to the resettlement process. Elements that created a successful outcome in this case included community engagement and awareness-raising, support during the moving process, and monitoring and follow-up after resettlement.

This case is adapted from the following sources:

Megan Rowling, “From Parks to Jobs, Disaster Prevention Gets a Makeover,” Reuters, March 4, 2015. Accessed May 8, 2016,

Global Risk Forum (GRF), ISDR, Munich Re Foundation, “RISK Award First-hand News Best Project Proposals 2015,”


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