Work begins on green project to transform Chilean capital

Piñera lays first stone in project to re-generate Santiago’s Rio Mapocho and create a vast cycle network running across the width of the city.

While Santiago has grown steadily for decades — state-of-the-art skyscrapers and modern infrastructure are common sights downtown — the Río Mapocho has remained static and less than magnificent. Now, work on a new project to regenerate the Mapocho has finally begun.

Earlier this week, President Sebastián Piñera, accompanied by First Lady Cecilia Morel and Sport Minister Gabriel Ruiz-Tagle, led the initiation ceremony for “Project Mapocho 42 km.” The Chilean head of state explained the project’s goal is to “recover, clean and care for the river, returning it to the people and making it the green spine of our city.”

Alongside the rejuvenated river will run a long-distance cycle path connecting Santiago from the district of Lo Barnechea in the far east to Pudahuel on the far western perimeter of the city — a total of 26 miles. The initiative will also include a pedestrian highway, space for joggers, lighting and will be lined with trees.

Those behind the initiative — which will encompass eight districts — say it will benefit the lives of large numbers of Chileans.

“More than two million Santiaguinos will enjoy the rejuvenated Rio Mapocho once it is recuperated, and returns to carrying clean water,” said Piñera.

The Chilean president outlined his strategy to prioritize both development of infrastructure and a healthy local environment.

“We are changing the city of Santiago, but we are using a double criteria,” Piñera explained. “We are not simply building infrastructure, urban roads — things which are certainly important — we are also creating a city for people, a city for families and a city for children.”

In recent years, Santiago has seen the establishment of several ciclovías, or cycle highways, and other infrastructure works to meet the demands of, and improve the experience for, the city’s burgeoning cycling community.