Category Archives: Drone

Mexico City’s Invisible Rivers – From the Air

Mexico City, beyond being one of the biggest cities in the world, is also one of the most at risk global capitals in terms of water security. This was not always the case, however. In fact, much of what is now Mexico City used to sit on top of Lake Texcoco – a body of water now almost completely covered over by the massive urban sprawl of 24 million people. But even after the lake was sacrificed to accommodate the city’s growing population, there was still a network of rivers that flowed through the city, providing irrigation, drainage, and green space.

Starting in the mid 1900’s, however, the rivers became so polluted from discarded trash and human waste, which when combined with the explosion of personal cars in Mexico led local government to the decision to enclose these rivers in pipes and pave over them with new roads. Some of the city’s main thoroughfares — Rio Churubusco or Rio de la Piedad, for example — still bear the names of the waterways that they replaced. While there is still some form of running water underneath these roads, they are now more sewer than river.

A woman uses an overpass to cross Rio Churubusco, a major freeway that was once a river.

A woman uses an overpass to cross Rio Churubusco, a major freeway that was once a river.

Recently there has been rising interest among architects and environmental activists to dig up these rivers and restore them to their original state, cleaning the water in the process and providing natural space for locals to enjoy. Unsurprisingly these plans have not been wholeheartedly embraced by the government which does not seem interested in spending large sums of money on projects with little promise of economic returns. Yet that hasn’t stopped people from drawing up plans for what such a project might look like and architecture firm Taller 13 has been among the lead voices in advocating the benefits of a city through which rivers once again flow.

 

Concept art from architecture firm Taller 13, showing what the Rio de la Piedad might look like if rejuvenated.

Since moving to Mexico City and starting a three year investigation into all facets of the city’s water situation, I’ve wanted to get a sense of the scale of these former rivers. Previously I’d driven along some of them and taken photos, but the real magnitude of the environment can’t be grasped from ground level. Instead I set aside my camera and travelled across the city with my drone and I think the footage gives a much better idea of both the size of the city and of the invisible rivers that were once above the surface.

Also posted in Blog, Environmental, Mexico, Video, Water Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Iztapalapa by Air

As part of my ongoing long term project about water shortages in Mexico, I’ve been spending a lot of my free time in Iztapalapa – Mexico City’s most populous borough, and one of the most chronically short of water.

The size and scale of Iztapalapa is truly hard to grasp from the ground. For a visitor at street level it’s impossible to get any sense of place, so thick is the urban environment. Low-rise concrete houses interspersed with light industrial operations seem to continue without end and the lack of any tall buildings makes navigating without GPS a challenge. Add to that the fact that Iztapalapa has one of the highest crime rates in a city of roughly 24 million, and wandering around lost becomes a situation best avoided.

Despite the difficulties of working in the area, the majority of Iztapalapa residents are possessed of the same hospitality that Mexico as a nation is famous for. And as a photojournalist and videographer newly based in Mexico City, Iztapalapa is a visual playground. So after a few months of meeting people and exploring various neighbourhoods I finally decided to come back with a drone to get a better sense of where I was in the greater context of the city.

As a drone pilot with experience in multiple countries across Asia, Canada, and Latin America, I have seen my fair share of impressive aerial views. But the expanse of urban jungle as dense as Iztapalapa was by far one of the most dramatic landscapes I’ve flown over.

Narrating in the background is Marisol Fierro, a community representative of the Mixcoatl neighbourhood and one of the people I make sure to visit every time I pass through Iztapalapa. This short video is part of a much longer section on the state of water shortages in the city, and will be eventually part of a much larger narrative. In the meantime, enjoy this birds eye view of Mexico City’s largest borough.

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For questions or proposals about photojournalism, videography, or drone operations in Mexico or the rest of the America’s, you can contact me here.

Also posted in Blog, Mexico, Water