Gabriela Vildosola, M.Ed, PhD(c)
Nominated From: University of Washington
Research Site: Universidad Nacional de la Amazonia Peruana
Research Area: Environmental Health
Primary Mentor: Leann Andrews
An Architectural Perspective on Environmental Health: Urban Development Plan for Increasing Health in the Floating Slums of Iquitos, Peru.
Iquitos is a city of a half a million people situated in the Amazon Rainforest in Peru. The edge of the city is a floodplain and houses an estimated ninety thousand (90,000) people living in “asentamientos humanos flotantes”, or floating slum communities, many of which are indigenous migrants from the jungle. These floating slum communities are rich in social, ecological, and cultural resources, and due to their floating structures, may provide an interesting alternative model for designing resilience to climate change impacts. The United Nations has put out a call for more floating communities around the world to combat climate change (UN Habitat 2018).
Yet the poor environmental conditions in floating slums resulting from the lack of public infrastructure (precarious housing and pathways, lack of water, sewer and electricity) contribute to poor health outcomes for humans and animals (food insecurity and malnutrition, vector and water borne diseases, poverty, lack of biodiversity, poor physical and mental health, injury risk).
Currently, the stance in Iquitos is for the relocation of these slum communities to public housing areas along the main highway, and there is no technical or political framework for these communities to stay in these areas. Alternative options for sustainable urban development have not been explored.
The aims of the present project are:
1. To understand the existing social, cultural, ecological, political, and physical context of floating slum communities in Iquitos Peru and the impact on public health in these communities.
2. To use this information to create technical and policy recommendations to positively impact human and ecological health and sustainability in floating slums in Iquitos.
3. Create alternatives architectural, ecological, and urban design improvements in floating slums in the Amazon rainforest improve the quality of the environment and health.
4. To inform policy makers, professionals and the public of the existing conditions and recommendations by creating a publicly accessible report and dissemination plan.
This research will advance the body of knowledge of the built environment in floating communities and public health field since there are not many experiences of this type of intervention and evaluation in Peru. I have the potential to inform and advance policies for the design and construction of these communities in Peru.
Advice for Potential Candidates
It is important to have a curious and innovative topic, get mentors, and a working group to strengthen research.