People making a difference: Susana Muhamad

Nivela met Susana Muhamad in Bonn, Germany. She is the District Secretary General on the Environment of Bogotá, Colombia and has focused on water and transport issues. Now she wants to focus on the coordination of different government agencies and on ensuring that the provision of services by Bogotá’s government is strengthened and accessible to all citizens.

Bogota seeks to break the cycle of unsustainability

Susana Muhamad´s work (and speech in Bonn Germany) inspired us to look for further information about Bogota and their efforts to become more sustainable.

Here we highlight some key positive developments from Bogotá.

Breaking a cycle

In the past, the city of Bogotá has tried to address issues of inadequate infrastructure, a crisis in public transport, and dependence on fossil fuels. As a result, the city’s government designed and began implementing a development plan that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prioritize pedestrians and cyclists, provide massive transport infrastructure, foster the introduction of electric power in mass transit, and strive towards a more equity-based system of transport with better accessibility for low income populations, individuals with disabilities, and senior citizens.

Award winning initiatives

Thanks to the government’s initiatives, Bogotá was recognized by the C40 and Siemens City Climate Leadership Awards in September, 2013. The city won the first place in the category of Urban Transport, given its efforts to green the bus and tax fleets through the projects of Transmilenio and Biotaxis. When receiving the award in London, Bogota’s mayor Gustavo Petro talked about the importance of leadership in addressing climate change, particularly by cities.

Transmilenio

Transmilenio is part of Bogota’s system of integrated public transportation. Transmilenio is a massive system of bus transport that began operating in 2000. More than 30% of trips in public transport are through Transmilenio and since its origins, the system has achieved a reduction of approximately 2.4 tons of carbon dioxide. New efforts to completely replace the current fleet (which uses diesel) with hybrid and electric buses are on their way. The government has also said that the electrification of taxis and the addition of a new metro line would reduce transport emissions in the city by more than 24%.

Biotaxis

is part of a larger vision to develop a more human Bogotá , said Secretary General, Susana Muhamad.Biotaxis is a pilot project that consists of electric vehicles that run on rechargeable batteries rather than diesel.The project is part of a larger vision to increase mobility in the city and promote the adoption and modernization of eco-efficient technologies in transport.The pilot project will last 10 years and the short term goal includes 50 biotaxis in total. The project has been introduced as a new chapter in the history of Bogota residents and as an opportunity for the people to improve their own environment.

Land Use Plan

In April of this year, Bogota was once again recognized for its sustainable initiatives. This time, the city’s Land Use Plan received the first place in Urban Sustainability at the World Urban Forum. The plan approaches sustainability in terms of mobility, social inclusion, and adaptation to climate change. The award recognizes the sustainable path to development the city has taken, including its effective natural resource management, the promotion of alternative modes of transportation, and the recycling and reuse of materials.

In essence, a more Human Bogotá sees the Colombian capital as a territory that faces climate change, recognizes the urgent need to overcome a city model that ignores the environment, and strives to implement an eco-urban approach. The vision for a different Bogotá has resulted in local and innovative approaches, allowing the city to mitigate its carbon footprint. However, beyond an environmental scope, initiatives centered on social inclusion have simultaneously improved the living environment for the people and demonstrated the critical link between environment and effective development.

Who is Susana Muhamad?

An expert on sustainable development, Muhamad served as District Secretary for the Environment for Bogotá, Colombia from 2012 until 2014. She has worked in Holland, South Africa, and Denmark and with local communities, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia and has a Masters in Planning and Management of Sustainable Development from theStellenbosh University in South Africa.

Follow her on Twitter as @susanamuhamad

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