Habitat III, a United Nations-sponsored conference on sustainable living, has drawn 20,000 attendees from all over the globe to Quito this week. Cuenca is in the spotlight as the only city in Ecuador to be recognized by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for meeting standards of “orderly and sustainable” growth in the category of cities under two million in population.
Not only that, Cuenca ranks #14 throughout all of Latin America and the Caribbean. The designation is based on the city’s coverage of basic services, including electric, water, and sewer, for its growth planning, low crime rate, and social and environmental consciousness.
Visitors to Cuenca often have preconceived notions of places in Latin America being trashy and dirty, and there are plenty of areas in Ecuador that fit this description. They are therefore favorably surprised to discover the city's cleanliness.
I'd like to say that the elevated consciousness of our citizens deserves all the credit, but sadly that isn't the case. Sure, there are trash receptacles throughout town and, yes, you sometimes see pet owners with poop bags. But too many folks are still prone to toss trash out of car windows and leave empty alcohol bottles here and there.
Cuenca is so clean because the city government employs a small army to pick up after all of us. Beginning at 5 AM every day two hundred fifty six uniformed employees with rolling 55 gallon drums sweep the streets and sidewalks, and another one hundred ninety five park workers maintain Cuenca's many public green spaces every 36 days.
Street cleaning machines pass through El Centro five times a day and once or twice a week in the rest of the city. One hundred eighty four people collect garbage twice a week, and even in this department Cuenca ranks highest in the country with a 98% coverage area.
So congratulations to Cuenca for the much deserved international recognition, and thank you to the 600+ hard-working Cuencanos who help make our beautiful city such a wonderful place to live.