The Rios Project started in Spain in 1997 and the municipality of Braga joined in 2015. The City Council of Braga challenged citizens to assume the role of kingfisher to help clean up the East River, which runs through the city.
Problems and Purpose
The alteration and deterioration of the quality of the Este River and the lack of effective involvement of users and the population of the city of Braga led the local Council to join the Rios Project in 2015.
This Project was launched in Catalonia by the “Associació Habitats para Projecte RIUS Catalunya” in 1997. In Portugal, the Rios Project arrived in 2006 and was adapted to the country's social and environmental context by the following entities: Associação Portuguesa de Educação Ambiental (ASPEA) ); Association of Teachers of Geography (APG); League for the Protection of Nature (LPN); Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto (FEUP).
The municipality of Braga when joining the project mobilized the local population for the conservation and improvement of the Este river and its surroundings, with the objective of implementing rehabilitation plans that involved the training and empowerment of the local civil society for responsible participation for sustainable development and environmental education in the region.
- Promote reflection for participation in relation to the care of riverside areas.
- To create a spirit of cooperation and exchange of ideas and experiences among the groups of volunteers.
- Sensitize the public to the environmental issue, through respect and care for the riverside ecosystem and territory.
- Carry out actions that promote the improvement of the river.
- Organize activities and events to publicize and discuss the importance of water in riparian ecosystems.
- In the school context, contribute to environmental education across the board.
Background History and Context
For more than two decades the community of the city of Braga remained inert to contamination, and to the effects caused by it, on the water of the Este river. The cleanliness and requalification of the river This is a challenge for the city and the local and regional public authorities. The Este River runs through the city in its course and in addition to the damage caused to the quality of life of the local population, it also affects the agricultural and livestock activities of the region, due to the excess of garbage accumulated in its bed, the focus of contamination for the entire course. From Rio. (The Este River rises in the Este Valley and flows into the Ave, in the parish of Touguinha - close to the mouth of the Ave River - it crosses Braga channeled through a narrow canal, passing through the whole area of agricultural and livestock activities. Braga is the main city of Metropolitan Area of Minho, which extends the consequences of contamination of the waters of the Este River to the entire region.)
Since joining the Rios Project in 2015, the municipality of Braga has been changing this scenario through practices and promotions to raise awareness among civil society about the problems and needs of protection and enhancement of riverside ecosystems. Thus, the municipality has been promoting and encouraging participatory processes of the local population and has managed to ensure that the social groups involved remain in the practice of effective actions for local sustainability and the rehabilitation of the local river system, expanding the network of actors / actresses who become responsible for the maintenance and inspection of the river.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Projeto Rios started in Spain in 1997 and the Braga municipality joined in 2015. The project aims at social participation in the conservation of river spaces, to follow the objectives presented in the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, and contribute to the implementation of the Earth Charter and the Water Framework Directive.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The Braga City Council proposed to local associations, secondary schools, NGOs, companies and the general population to adopt stretches of the Este river and mobilized hundreds of volunteers in the local population to clean the river.
Participants were divided into groups for each stretch of the river adopted and each group consists of a minimum of 4 people, who can be members of a family, a group of friends, an association, sports club, school, college, etc.
Methods and Tools Used
"The project is based on the work carried out by groups of voluntary persons through periodic interventions on a 500-meter stretch of river that has been adopted, thereby assuming a commitment to custody the territory. of 4 people, who can be members of a family, a group of friends, an association, sports club, school, university, etc. Through a common observation method for everyone and easy to apply, the groups share the responsibility of to watch over and protect the part of the river adopted, contributing to a permanent improvement of water resources in general and to the recovery of their area in particular, "(Educators).
Deliberations, Decisions, and Public Interaction
Participants are committed to managing the adopted territory. Through a common observation, the methodology used is easy to apply for all the groups involved in order that each one assumes responsibility for monitoring and protecting the part of the river adopted, contributing to a permanent improvement of water resources in general, and to the recovery of your particular section.
The project includes two interventions per year by groups, one in the spring and one in the fall. On these field trips, the City Council coordinates the group's visit to the adopted section, with the accompaniment of a municipal technician. In these interventions, the Chamber provides participants with a kit with all the information necessary for the study of the river (water characteristics, the material life of the river, vegetation, etc.).
At the end of September 2015, the city of Braga sent a general call to all participants to clean up the Rio Este sections and also to plant around them. In addition, the groups were invited to participate in other activities, such as walks, photography exhibitions, picnics, etc., in order to strengthen relations with local environmental diversity and interact as members of society responsible for the group's quality of life.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The project increased local social participation in favor of accountability and educational activities for environmental training. It encouraged the adoption and monitoring of a 500-meter stretch of river, by each working group. The network of participants mobilized activities with local schools so that students could also raise awareness of the problems and needs of protecting and valuing riverside ecosystems to civil society.
For a better understanding of the Este river and in order to locate and eliminate the sources of contamination of its waters, the municipality of Braga promoted the collection of the water sample for analysis and shared the results with the members of the groups involved. As a result, there was a greater integration of the participants in the necessary cleaning and also generated the collective responsibility for permanent monitoring of the river and eventual denunciation, should they identify new damages to the river.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The participation of the groups formed through the promotion of the municipality of Braga provided for the cleaning of the Este river and also the adhesion of several actors / actresses of the civil society regarding the improvement of permanent monitoring of the water quality, according to the Rios Project.
The involvement of citizens in participatory and voluntary environmental action in order to improve water quality for the entire length of the Este River does not seem to have been completed in the activities developed in 2015, as training for new people monitors continued in 2016, on the initiative of the municipality of Braga. The intention of the project is that, over time, the participating groups will gain autonomy and disseminate in society the commitment to maintaining and taking responsibility for the actions of each citizen for the quality of the water in the river and the ecosystem around it.
See Also & nbsp;
Integrated Water Resource Management
COSTA, Liliana. New kingfisher monitors pollution in Braga. TSF Rádio Notícias, of 17/08/2015. Available at: http: // www.tsf.pt/vida/ambiente/interior/novos-guardarios-vigiam-poluicao-em-braga-4733085.html
EDUCATORS, Asociación Internacional de Ciudades. Project Ríos Participation in the conservation and improvement of the environment in Braga. Highlighted Experience n. 25, 2016. Available at: http://www.edcities.org/wp-content/uploads /2016/12/experiencia-destacada-ES-25-Braga.pdf
MAFRA, Paulo; MORENO, Márcia. The Rivers Project as a tool in Environmental Education: monitoring the Fervença-Bragança river. EduSer: Revista de Educação, 8 (1), 1-12, 2017.
Rios Project https://aspea.org/index.php/inicio
Rios Braga Project https://www.cm-braga.pt/en/0101/participar/voluntariado/projeto-rios
Lead image: Liliana Costa / TSF https://goo.gl/VDwhnc