UIC Barcelona leads a pilot study aimed at promoting citizen participation in the management of riverscapes

Lecturer Pere Vall is co-directing this research project to develop a participatory model aimed at forming self-organised pro-environmental groups for the Besòs river basin.

Promoting a new riverscape management model based on grassroots citizen participation. This is the main premise of the study “Promoting citizen-based river groups at sub-basin scale for multi-level river governance in the Barcelona Metropolitan Region” published recently in the Q1 scientific journal Local environment. The study was co-directed by the lecturer from UIC Barcelona School of Architecture, Pere Vall, and by the lecturer from the Institute of the Environment at the University of Girona, Anna Ribas. The study has also had the collaboration from lecturers Marta Benages, Álvaro Cuéllar, Carmen Mendoza-Arroyo and Raquel Colacios, from UIC Barcelona, and lecturers Xavier Garcia and David Pavon, from the University of Girona. 

According to the research, 20 years after the European Union’s adoption of the Water Framework Directive, there is still a disparity between the growing social use of rivers and citizen participation in managing these riverscapes. As such, the researchers developed a participatory pilot model involving 57 volunteers, professionals and local leaders from the four municipalities surrounding the Besòs river basin in the Barcelona Metropolitan Region. The process involved organising workshops and using public participation geographic information systems.

“This pilot experience provided the necessary setting for horizontal cooperation among local volunteers. People from different municipalities surrounding the Besòs river basin, dissatisfied with the current state of the river and the authorities’ lack of interest in improving it, decided to cooperate by setting up the Viu La Riera group. Today, this collective has a direct impact on the quality of the river, including supervision, direct actions such as organising volunteer sanitation initiatives or environmental education initiatives”, explained Pere Vall.  

The study lays the foundation for developing a theory on the design of participatory grassroots systems, aimed at empowering riverscape communities in order to favour the creation of co-governance models. 

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