After more than 80 years under U.S. jurisdiction, the Panama Canal and the surrounding Canal Zone were returned to Panama in 2000. Panama assumed ownership of 932 km of land and about 6,700 structures, including housing, office buildings, schools, ports, airports, and military installations.

This property will significantly affect the country’s economy, its government administration, and the development of its Central Region. To manage the property, the government created the Autoridad de la Region Interoceanica (ARI), in February 1993.

In 1995, ARI retained Nathan Associates to plan the development and conservation of the reverted areas and of the broader Panama Canal watershed, an area vital to the long-term viability of the canal.

Unanimous Adoption of Plans

Nathan Associates prepared a general plan for the use, conservation, and development of the canal area and a regional plan for the development of the interoceanic region.These plans were designed to serve as a master plan for development of the reverted areas and to provide the legal framework for the use and conservation of these areas and the interoceanic region.

Panama’s National Assembly unanimously adopted the plans as the foundation for the use, development, and conservation of the interoceanic region.

The General Plan

The General Plan guides the integration of the Canal Zone into the Panamanian economy and emphasizes economic activities to promote sustainable development and generate employment and income. The plan

  • Provides a blueprint for the expansion of the cities of Panama and Colon;
  • Specifies a framework for zoning the reverted areas and a strategy for transferring, leasing, selling, or reserving specific assets or categories of assets; and
  • Covers such topics as human settlement in the reverted areas and the presence of potentially dangerous or toxic materials.

The Regional Plan

The Regional Plan establishes guidelines for environmental management and economic development of the interoceanic region, taking into account the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in the canal watershed.

We proposed the following:

(1) zoning of the watershed to define conservation areas and the boundaries of urban and rural development

(2) an institutional arrangement to guarantee the preservation and rational use of the region’s resources

(3) the economic and financial mechanisms needed to manage canal watershed resources.

The plan was based on a comprehensive inventory of the physical and socioeconomic resources of the watershed.

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