For a clean and natural stream! Talks and discussions for defining measures and establishing a network of citizens

22/09/17
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The series of talks and participatory workshops entitled “For a clean and natural stream”, which were held on 6, 19 and 20 July, marked the end of the activities organised as part of the We Decide phase of the Viu la Riera! project, led by researchers from the ESARQ - School of Architecture at UIC Barcelona and the University of Girona’s Institute of the Environment, during which time 12 measures for preserving and improving the Caldes Stream and the surrounding area were defined and a network of sixty citizens interested in promoting such measures was established.

Each of the meetings, which took place in La Llagosta, Santa Perpètua de Mogoda, Palau de Plegamans and Caldes de Montbui, was divided into two parts: a talk on specific issues concerning citizens -which were different in each town- and a participatory workshop that served as a follow-up to the citizens’ debate held in June around the Public Opinion Maps.

The series of talks was inaugurated by representatives from Naturalea, Albert Sorolla and Inma Rueda, on Thursday 6 July in the towns of Llagosta and Palau de Plegamans. In La Llagosta, at the request of the residents who attended the meeting in June, the main objective of the talk was to provide examples of riparian landscape restoration projects that could be viable for the town, under the title “Rivers: The Land’s Kidneys”. In Palau de Plegamans, the session, titled “The False Security of Concrete Walls”, addressed one of the local inhabitants’ main preoccupations: the compatibility between the presence of plant life in the stream and flood protection. On Wednesday 19 July, Marc Ordeix, from the Centre for the Study of Mediterranean Rivers, gave a talk about public awareness and the conservation of riparian landscapes to people from Santa Perpètua. Lastly, on Thursday 20 July, the series of talks came to an end with presentations by Albert Solà, from the Besòs-Tordera Consortium, and Robert Mas, from ABM Servicios de Ingeniería y Consulting, who brought to the table examples of how to mitigate the impact of spillways on riparian landscapes and stressed the importance of educating people about what we flush down our toilets.

As regards the citizens’ debates that followed each talk, note must be made of the degree of precision to which the participants defined the specific measures for preserving and promoting the area astride the stream, specifying who should be in charge, who should participate and the optimal time for carrying them out. Some went as far as to outline the steps needed to schedule them for this autumn or throughout the coming year.

More specifically, the 20 citizens who attended the meeting in La Langosta ironed out the details of 3 measures aimed at raising awareness of the stream as a first step towards recruiting other concerned citizens. From fun walks for the general public, which would include talks about the local natural and architectural heritage, to campaigns to clean the stream of waste and trees, aimed particularly at residents of the senior citizens’ home and primary and secondary school students, as part of a new curricular subject on community service. With a view to further detailing the proposed initiatives, the session ended with the creation of a WhatsApp group whereby members can monitor the process and undertake to recruit other people interested in helping out with the project ahead of the next meeting.

In Palau-Solità i Plegamans, the meeting, attended by 26 people, culminated in the definition of 3 measures: one to increase awareness among cyclists and pedestrians of how to safely use the Ronda Verda foot and bike path; another to promote the area around the stream through guided excursions; and a third to clean the stream and eliminate invasive species. The attendees also shared the view that, prior to launching any environmental education campaign, the stream must first achieve good environmental status. With all the measures, the citizens felt it important that the Town Council lead the activities, with support from local entities such as the local hiking club, parents’ associations, schools and the Palau Cycling Club. As regards the efforts to eliminate invasive species, it was recalled that the involvement of the Catalan Water Agency, the entity with the proper authority, would be required, and participants stressed the need to take a supramunicipal approach, ensuring the implementation of the measure from the headwaters to the mouth of the stream.

In Santa Perpètua de Mogoda, though less people attended, 7 altogether, they agreed on a measure for raising public awareness that should allow for the development of different projects and activities, such as: adapting places to heighten contact with the stream; installing information panels; planting native riverside woodland species; creating a place for birdwatching; and organising guided outings to help people discover the area’s natural values. As in the previous case, the attendees felt it should be the Town Council who should take charge of the action, in conjunction with local entities such as the Torrentera, certain Green Schools, the Mogoda Circle of Research and Studies and Friends of Santiga. The importance of securing supramunicipal sources of funding, whether from the Besòs-Tordera Consortium, the Rivers Department of the Regional Council of Barcelona or the Catalan Water Agency, was also highlighted.

Lastly, in Caldes de Montbui, the 19 people who attended the session agreed to 5 measures, all of which involved sensitising the public to the stream and the surrounding area. On the one hand, participants stated the need to further promote activities being developed by local groups, such as the clean-up campaigns organised by the Caldes Stream Advocacy Group and the workshops for children offered by El Pasqualet Environmental Education. On the other, a collective hanging of posters in schools and municipal facilities was suggested as part of the campaign entitled “The rivers in your hands”, promoted by the Besòs-Tordera Consortium to remedy certain everyday practices we do at home and which have a direct impact on the environmental health of our inland waterways. There was also talk of leveraging the curricular subject on community service at secondary schools to address issues related to the Caldes Stream and the surrounding area. Lastly, the attendees also discussed whether or not to establish synergies between participants from all towns. With 4 La Llagosta residents at the meeting, talk turned to organising an educational fun walk sometime from September onwards, with the ultimate goal of getting the other two towns involved.

Based on the measures outlined during the town meetings in July, more individualised meetings with the teams of proponents are due to be held from September onwards as the first step in the third and final stage of the participatory process, titled Get Involved. The aim of this phase is to encourage and facilitate the inclusion and localisation of the measures proposed by the public in an online application such as GeoAgenda. This tool, for the first time ever, will provide an overview of all the initiatives for improving the stream put forth by citizens from all four towns. This supramunicipal knowledge will help foster cooperation and the pooling of efforts between the teams driving initiatives in the basin with interests in the same issues. The final presentation of the website, with all the information collected from the public, will take place at one of the events held to mark the end of the Viu la Riera project, sometime around November. The event will be open to the public and all local and supramunicipal institutions with links to the territory and the planning and management of the Caldes Stream.