The two cities stand in the flood-prone depressed Pampa region, which historically has been filled with small rivers and streams draining into the La Plata River basin. The problem is that many of these natural runoff systems have been covered up or "tubed" in favor of urban expansion. With nowhere to go -- and no streams to drain through -- water from heavier-than-usual storms begins to accumulate, causing flooding.
"[Urban] growth in the last few years has been huge, and it obviously hasn't taken into account environmental factors," said Greenpeace Argentina representative Hernan Giardini.
One example is the recent construction boom north of Buenos Aires in the Venice-like town of Tigre and the Paraná Delta, he said.
According to an article by the Inter Press Service, out-of-control construction on the delta was plugging up the local ecosystem and obstructing the natural runoff of water that cushions the impact of floods in the area surrounding the capital.
Adaptation needs trumped by politics
Such vulnerabilities were highlighted after the April flooding, along with the lack of infrastructure to cope with more frequent and heavy rains and the absence of disaster management plans, the article stated.
"Historically, the administration hasn't been too concerned about environmental issues, let alone the issue of climate change," Giardini said. So in terms of adapting to climate change or climate-oriented urban planning, Argentina is way behind, he said.
While April's disaster has brought attention to the need for natural disaster preparedness and proper urban planning, according to Giardini, chances are, little will come out of it as far as mitigation and adaptation.
"It worries me that they are trying to naturalize these types of catastrophes -- calling them 'natural disasters' -- not thinking about what man has done to contribute to them or how to adapt," Giardini said.
The fact that the federal and Buenos Aires city governments' first reaction to the disaster was to toss around the blame is not very reassuring either, he said.
"We'll see. I hope this is a start," Giardini said.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500