Urban rivers are opportunities for innovative urban planning, ecological restoration and the creation of valuable public space. Globally, there is interest in restoring urban rivers to meet environmental and public goals. We systematically search the academic and grey literatures in both English and Spanish to identify cases, trends, and examples of successful urban river restoration projects in Latin America. The search of the academic literature in English and Spanish revealed that the documentation on urban river restoration projects is sparse and dispersed. Peer-‐reviewed articles presented specialized studies but not comprehensive descriptions of the restoration or planning process. The review of the grey literature in Spanish was much more successful in uncovering information about urban river restoration projects and plans, even though few official plans were found.
Our systematic search of the academic literature identified 20 cases from 7 countries, while the grey literature search revealed 45 projects from 12 countries. We analyzed four cases in greater depth: The Bogotá, Medellín and Magdalena rivers in Colombia and the Rímac river in Peru. We found that corridors, parks and greenways are the most common elements of river restoration projects. The renewed spaces often include recreational areas and bicycle paths. The drivers that motivate the restoration projects are diverse. The Magdalena river project aims to improve fluvial transportation, commerce and trade along the river. The Bogotá river project intends to restore the environmental quality and landscape as a result of a public and legal claim. The Medellín project aims to create new public space and connect west-‐east neighborhoods for solving segregation. Finally, the Rímac river project was motivated by transportation interests and sought to provide Lima with green spaces; however, the case was cancelled and led to controversy. Ultimately, we uncovered fewer urban river restoration plans than we anticipated. Nevertheless, the potential remains large, and in the next decade, we foresee that there will be a new wave of urban river restoration planning in Latin America that will improve the quality of life for residents, and the environmental conditions of urban rivers.
This work is the result of an internship made possible thanks to MITACS. The full text is available on UBC Circle