Sweet City

The Costa Rica suburb that gave citizenship to bees, plants and trees.



A suburb of the country’s capital is showing how urban planning can be harnessed to benefit both humans and wildlife.


“Pollinators were the key,” says Edgar Mora, reflecting on the decision to recognise every bee, bat, hummingbird and butterfly as a citizen of Curridabat during his 12-year spell as mayor.


“Pollinators are the consultants of the natural world, supreme reproducers and they don’t charge for it. The plan to convert every street into a biocorridor and every neighbourhood into an ecosystem required a relationship with them.”


The move to extend citizenship to pollinators, trees and native plants in Curridabat has been crucial to the municipality’s transformation from an unremarkable suburb of the Costa Rican capital, San José, into a pioneering haven for urban wildlife.


Now known as “Ciudad Dulce” – Sweet City – Curridabat’s urban planning has been reimagined around its non-human inhabitants. Green spaces are treated as infrastructure with accompanying ecosystem services that can be harnessed by local government and offered to residents. Geolocation mapping is used to target reforestation projects at elderly residents and children to ensure they benefit from air pollution removal and the cooling effects that the trees provide. The widespread planting of native species underscores a network of green spaces and biocorridors across the municipality, which are designed to ensure pollinators thrive.


Sweet City is just one of a number of biocorridors around the country that allow the genetic spread of species to maintain their strength. In Central America, this concept has developed since the early 2000s following an agreement to form a biocorridor network to connect jaguars.


“Grey infrastructure makes the city warm up too much. So the idea to connect green areas is to cool down parts of the city, return the ecosystem services that were there previously but have deteriorated,” says Magalli Castro Álvarez, who oversees Costa Rica’s network of biocorridors with the National System of Conservation Areas (Sinac).


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