The recent history of humanity, in addition to its immediate future, is marked by the proliferation of large urban agglomerations. Enormous architectural ensembles that stretch as far as the eye can see to the horizon and capitalized modern economic activity. Its bombastic and massive aspect inferred from them permanence, history, stability. However, look back to the history of many cities is running into manipulation of elements, environmental adaptation and survival.
There are cases on every continent. One of the most recurrent is the relationship of many cities with water, or rather, his former relationship with it. Few elements has aspired to control humans so hard like water. Centuries of technological development have allowed him to bury huge rivers under asphalt streets, or drain thousands of square kilometers of swampy waters with the aim of establishing new growing areas and surrounding cities. Often, these stories go unnoticed in our daily lives.
Mexico City: Centuries against its waters
It is what happens paradigmatically in Mexico City, the gigantic capital of Mexico. This brief report from City Lab runs the long avenues of the city in search of those still alive but already forgotten rivers that once served as the aquatic ecosystem and natural protection to the fantasy city of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire located formerly at the base of the Valley of Mexico, on the waters of lake Texcoco, now drained and disappeared forever dint of urbanization and inexorable growth of the Mexican city.
The history of domination of the lake by various people, from the Aztecs to the Spanish conquerors later, is very long, and acrecenta after the fall of the Mesoamerican empire. Tapped in its infancy, huge and magnificent, the lake and its subsidiary small lakes were gradually dismissed as useless and unhealthy source besides an obstacle to the growth of Mexico City in the coming centuries. Thus, works that seek to dry it until its partial extinction happen.
In the twentieth century, Mexico City, after centuries of fighting Texcoco, had managed to control it and impose its law on the old bed of fresh water. However, even they detracted rivers. With many of them, as explained in Mexico City from 1952 to 1964, it was decided to undertake not her drained, impossible, but his burial. Thus, as the flow Piedad were buried by asphalt intended for wide avenues that dissipate traffic (fatal decision, on the other hand, given the expansive nature of traffic).
Are 45 in all rivers and streams that survive under Mexico City. And they are still salvageable.
Eastern England against its marshes
You cannot say the same system of lakes and ponds and wetlands for centuries of antiquity and of the Middle Ages dominated eastern England. Today the county once dominated by mud and eels still known as “Isle of Ely,” referring to the isolated nature on land, one of its major cities, Ely, a handful of kilometers of Cambridge. The region, known since the beginning of the Saxon and Anglo invasions as The Fens, is today a gigantic green plain.
However, Cambridge and other cities north of both, as the typically medieval King’s Lynn, was possible only after substantive systems drained and canals that drained water throughout the area. Hydraulic works, as in Mexico City, were made for centuries and ended the lifestyle of many of the farmers and residents of the region. It was not until the nineteenth century when definitively East Anglia would look today it is known.
The reasons for drying the marshes were varied. On the one hand, the low height of the terrain and the frequent rains that looked stricken made him, like the Sommerset today, easy prey to floods, endangering all cities created within it. The modification of flows, such as the Great Ouse at its mouth, besides pumping industrial machines in the early nineteenth century were decisive when draining and finish with the place, improving its livability and economic productivity.
Valencia and removal of Turia
Sometimes a river is just why a city undertakes major engineering works to depart from the surrounding water. In Spain, the most significant example is Valencia, the third largest city by population once crossed by the low Turia, whose mouth was at the heart of the city. A mid-twentieth century, a terrible flood that caused extensive damage to houses in the center and the loss of at least 81 lives, resulted in the decision away from the riverbed.
Previously, the Turia had played an important role in the flourishing of Valencia, whose quality of large Mediterranean economic center had placed long ago as one of the major ports of the peninsula. However, the Great Flood of 1957 changed the outlook that the city authorities had Turia, whose torrential occasional basis (and natural hazards of all floodplain) represented, at that time, too urgent threat.
Valencia then undertook the South Plan, which would take the old Turia south of the city. Franco’s dictatorship, prone to all kinds of hydraulic works to improve the propaganda image of the regime, chose, discarding other possibilities that passed by diverting the Turia to the north or improve its course in the city, digging a new course from Quart de Poblet to the Mediterranean. In total, eleven kilometers detour on artificially passes Turia, and are not exempt from review.
The channel released from the center of Valencia, yes, became a magnificent park.
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America: A birth at the expense of the gaps
The case of America, originally named by the Italian fascist regime as Littoria, is slightly different: the city of Lazio, south of the Italian capital, did not have to evaporate water to survive, but to exist.
America stands on the former grounds of the Pontine Lagunas, a series of wetlands originated millennia. The area, flat and full of rivers changing channel, was little practicable despite attempts of all sorts of rulers and civilizations tame them: from the Roman approaches to dry them and inhabit them (with the resulting farm: the region is very extensive and for centuries it has gone virtually uninhabited) to the final plans of Mussolini, to truly crazy German plans for peacefully colonize and convert it into Prussian territory.
It was the fascist government of Il Duce which, remarkably improved the drainage techniques, managed to end the marshy and impracticable aspect of the Pontine Marshes, a source of malaria once, in the future example for the world of technological skills of fascism. There several cities were founded, populated by northern Italians (Venetian and Friulian). The most notable, Littoria, whose conquest in World War II and the subsequent cleaning of all fascist Italy made herelement today in America.
The region has flourished away from the gaps (but heavily polluted), and with it America, which has grown to 100,000.
St. Petersburg despite everything, despite all
The history of St. Petersburg has much admiration for control of natural elements as terrifying by the circumstances of its origin, closely linked to the efforts of the czars to build a window to the sea for continental Russia and its coercive capacity to exploit thousands of servants to that effect.
St. Petersburg is a young city located halfway between the Ladoga, the European continent’s largest lake, and the mouth of the Neva River in the Baltic. The area is naturally very low and is full of water throughout the year. Possessed by the Swedish armies, Peter the Great decided to make it his own, which he got after the Northern War, one of the most important conflicts of his time. In this remote spot, with direct access to the sea without relying on the Mediterranean straits controlled by the Ottomans, the czar decided to build a city.
Splendorous, but surrounded by swamps, canals and marshes. To this end, Peter the Great deployed all sorts of resources. The area, far from the heart of traditional Russia (whose capital, Moscow, is hundreds of kilometers to the southeast), required the mobilization of huge numbers of settlers. Most of them did in harsh conditions and against their will. During the years following the settlement, they were used in tasks and building drainage channels today give fame.
St. Petersburg is today a magnificent city, rebuilt after the hardships of World War II, where he was besieged and subjected to a terrifying famine, whose mere existence is a tangible proof of the dominance of water by humans.