Impact story

Climate resilient urban planning in the mountainous tropics

Tropical mountainous cities in Latin America are highly vulnerable to climate change and are already facing the disastrous effects of this. Clearing land off trees and shrubs makes soil prone to erosion. In times of heavy rainfall, landslides and floods are inevitable. Therefore, new urban scenarios that effectively alleviate these challenges are needed.


Dosquebradas (Colombia) is located on the bottom of a basin and is surrounded by steep sloping mountains. Due to this position, Dosquebradas is vulnerable to flash floods and landslides after tropical storms. In the past decade, coffee price fluctuations forced farmers to change the use of their lands from coffee plantation to pasture. This reduced the number of jobs within the agricultural sector, leading to migration to the City. The settlements of the growing population spread further and further uphill. The change in land-use boosts erosion susceptibility. The risk for natural disasters has increased significantly and requires planned action, especially for those living in slums.


In a participatory session, city experts from the Municipality of Dosquebradas and civil society identified vulnerability hotspots, explored counteractive measures and their likely impacts. In a three-day QUICKScan workshop maps and graphs of the potential of the counteractive measures were created iteratively:

  • 'Greening' impervious areas to improve the permeability of the soil.
  • HImproving retention capacity by consolidating cooperation with rural communities in the surrounding areas.
  • Relocating settlements with a temporary character to areas less prone to natural hazards.
A next step in this joint learning process would be to decide upon an implementable solution.

Impact and future perspective

During this exploratory phase, participants exchanged tacit technical knowledge and preferences. Many technical insights were achieved providing understanding in which solutions are most likely to have a positive effect and where. A next step in this joint learning process would be to decide upon an implementable solution. Finding the appropriate participatory process, in which technical information is transparently shared amongst practitioners in the field is a challenge for the near future.