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Residents who live along the Arroyo Alamar in Tijuana complained at a forum Friday that authorities were using concrete to line the streambed without taking the residents' needs into consideration, Frontera and El Sol de Tijuana newspapers reported Saturday.
Sol reported that the National Water Commission (La Comisión Nacional del Agua [Conagua]) and the state government said 610 million pesos (U.S. $51 million) will be spent to line 10.5 kilometers (6.5 miles) of streambed with concrete, and that more than 450 families living along the channel will be relocated. The stream is a tributary of the Tijuana River.
Ana Espinoza, director of Estudios Urbanos Sociales y Sustentables (Urban and Sustainable Social Studies), told the "Listening to the Voices of the River" forum that the idea of lining the streambed with concrete is an obsolete idea that belongs in the 1970s, Sol reported.
"We are talking about 10 kilometers full of vegetation, and although there are irregular settlements, the solution is not to pour concrete, because for 30 years authorities have done nothing," she said.
In 2005, when Espinoza worked as a planner for the city of Tijuana, she told a forum on urban growth at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at UCSD that Tijuana was planning to build a park along the banks of the streambed. She made an elaborate presentation at that time, with photos and maps, showing the project.
She said residents were never told of the change of plans. But Conagua representative Francisco Téllez said the project was "public and transparent."
He said the first phase of the project, which is now under way, will not be stopped. He said the agency would look into revising the second phase.
He said the streambed is being lined with concrete to prevent people from being carried away when the stream floods. He also spoke of placing streets in the area, Frontera reported.
He said the needs of a growing city and ecology have to be weighed. "To arrive at an equilibrium is difficult and some six kilometers of green areas will be impossible to save," El Sol quoted him as saying.
"The benefits (of the concrete lining) will be greater because it takes into consideration an important, ordered urban development, which is likely to improve neighboring property values," he said. He said the project also may help reduce a crime problem in the area.
Estudios Urbanos Sociales y Sustentables (Urban and Sustainable Social Studies) project
Update, April 1, 2013: Freeway along Arroyo Alamar advances.
Update, Sept. 13, 2013: Newly built shacks built along Arroyo Alamar destroyed.