SITUATION BEFORE THE INITIATIVE BEGAN
Historically, the River Ter basin was the economic motor for the inhabitants in this area. Today, the problems that affect this territory are multitudinous and assorted: environmental degradation, water outflow, loss of biodiversity, destruction of the river basin cultural heritage, lack of territorial unity and the non-existence of common policies linked to the river.
ESTABLISHMENT OF PRIORITIES
In 1996, starting from the local initiative promoted by seven riverside town councils from the River Ter (Salt, Manlleu, Bescanó, Celrà, Girona, Ripoll and Torroella de Montgrí), a proposal was elaborated for presentation at the XVI Regional Policy and Cohesion DG of the European Union within the framework of the Terra Programme. In the year 1997, it was selected. Thus the Alba-Ter/Ave Project was born. Its objective was to develop an Integral Development Plan for the River Ter under the criteria of sustainability. The directives established in the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) were applied to the project. The Alba-Ter Consortium was set up at the end of 1998 in order to develop and correctly execute the project.
FORMULATION OF OBJECTIVES AND STRATERGIES
The Integral Development Plan for the River Ter formulates five lines of strategy:
- Consolidate the Alba-Ter Consortium as a reference organisation for the spatial development of the Ter river basin.
- Achieve a good ecological condition for the fluvial system of the Ter and its river basin.
- Achieve a global and co-ordinated development of the Ter river basin, especially of its fluvial scope.
- Preserve and protect the cultural heritage of the Ter, and promote and adapt the elements that so permit for their social use.
- Sustainably develop the economic potentials that the River Ter and its river basin have to offer.
MOBILISATION OF RESOURCES
For the purpose of consolidating the Alba-Ter Consortium as the spokesman organisation for topics related to the space that makes up the River Ter, the participation of divers territorial public as well as private agents was fomented. Thus the economical support of different public authorities such as county boards, county councils and regional governments were obtained. Financial collaboration agreements were drawn up with these bodies mainly to guarantee the maintenance of the Alba-Ter Consortium structure.
The financial support of different private companies linked to the River Ter territory was also obtained. These companies signed collaboration agreements in order to receive economic resources for use in the execution of specific projects.
Furthermore, different academic institutions were involved from the beginning, such as the Universities of Girona, Vic and Barcelona. Scientific collaboration agreements were signed with these Universities in order to receive technical advice and participation in the writing of reports on different spatial topics by the pluridisciplinary university teams.
An Advisory Board made up of experts in different fields (geographers, architects, historians, economists, ecologists, etc.) was also constituted. Its purpose was to supervise the initiatives and activities promoted by the Alba-Ter Consortium.
The Experience of the Alba-Ter Consortium can be considered pioneer in Catalonia. There is no other initiative related to the integral management of a space articulated by a waterway. Another innovative aspect of the start-up of this organisation is that it is locally promoted, it is the administration that is very close to the citizens, and it is the organisation that secures the priority needs of a territory.
These characteristics made it so that participation from different territorial agents, public as well as private, was high from the beginning. Therefore, financial, technical and political support was relatively easy to obtain. This was a markedly attractive idea and provided the option of being able to co-ordinate the work homogeneously for a territory.
At any rate, the genesis of the Alba-Ter Consortium was not easy. There was the issue of transmitting the idea to the general population of creating a supramunicipal organisation whose first task was to carry out an Integral Development Plan of the River Ter. The project was co-financed by the European Union and based on a number of exhaustive technical studies at the level of the river basin. Its transfer in the territory would have to wait a rather long time. Making commitments to an idea rather than to concrete, demonstrative spatial activities is always complicated. We think that little by little the society understood the initial efforts. At present, the initial reluctance has been overcome and the foreseen objectives of the Development Plan are in their implementation phase.
Another task, which was complicated though not less attractive, was making the citizens and some of the local authorities aware of the importance and the opportunity that river courses represent for the river populations. Thus, from 1998 to date, it has been proven that the prevailing perception of the rivers in general has varied notably. Awareness of ecosystems, often forgotten or left aside, as with those of rivers, has undergone a remarkable shift toward a proven importance for endogenous resources in the future development of the territory. This change has been translated on the one hand into a greater participation in projects that affect the river and its space. On the other hand, the land has obtained the qualification as river space in the general urban development plans
Consolidation of a supramunicipal supply organisation that incorporates long-term sustainability from an integrated vision for spatial development. Moreover, the organisation is promoted by a local initiative. The Alba-Ter Consortium represents 90.6% of the riverside population and 55.3% of the total population in the river basin.
Leadership of the Alba-Ter Consortium as a reference organisation in the spatial development of the River Ter basin. Favours the convergence of the sectoral policies of the different authorities with competence in the different matters concerning this territory.
Formulation and implementation of integral and global spatial development strategies oriented toward territorial cohesion of a space defined by physical criteria as in the case of a river basin.
Valuing of the natural and cultural heritage existing in the territory as an asset to be preserved and as being part of the territorial identity. Cataloguing, taking inventory and implementation of a Geographic Information System of the existing river heritage existing along the 208 Km of the Ter’s river course.
Favour the equality of opportunities of all the member municipalities, in spite of their dimensions and of their economical, technical and human resources.
Introduction of the new information and communications technologies to promote access to all the territorial bodies, associations and of all the citizens to technical information related to the Consortium, projects developed and to establish a forum for debate on the river space: web page, interactive cartographic service based on the SIG (IMS).
Public funds guaranteed by pluriannual agreements. Part of the public institutions that give financial support to the Consortium participate directly in the entity’s management, thereby assuring the efficient and rational use of the funds.
Private funds for specific projects.
Own income. In the future, the possibility has been presented of obtaining income through the under-ministry of information and from the management of projects.
Social and Economical Aspects:
Execute activities in the territory aimed at the general public. Provide easy and accessible information about the spaces equipped for public use. Promote free access to natural spaces of interest free of charge.
Adapt spaces for public use as much as possible, measures adapted to persons with difficulty in mobility and vision. Installation of access ramps, and tactile and sound panels in order to learn about the flora and fauna that exists in the river ecosystem. Recovery of the river spaces that have undergone a marginalisation and a degradation process in order to incorporate them into the urban scheme and equip them for social and recreational uses by their residents.
Favour the preservation and enriching of the cultural identity. Strengthen the recovery of cultural river heritage as an inheritance from the past and that forms part of the current and future generations. Introduction of the information technologies through the Geographic Information System. Implantation of an Internet Map Server (IMS)
Transform the river space into a veritable biological corridor. Preserve the biodiversity and the river ecosystem without exceeding its load capacity Make a uniform use of the river space land, making it compatible with the existing economic activities, favouring the continuity of the river’s ecosystem. Promote the recovery / rehabilitation and the rational and sustainable public use of the inherited resources of the territory.
The setting up of the Alba-Ter Consortium has meant the following opportunities for the territory:
Consolidation of a supramunicipal supply organisation promoted by local initiatives with support from different public authorities, foundations and private companies in order to be able to co-ordinate the work homogeneously for a river space territory from an integrated and multi-disciplinary point of view of the territory. Implementation of the directives established in the European Spatial Development Perspective for development and territorial planning.
Incorporate and work under the criteria of sustainability in all the scopes that intervene in the spatial development of the river space of the River Ter and consequently in all the political decisions that affect the territory.
Strengthen the cultural and territorial identity by valuing the rich and ample endogenous river heritage, natural as well as cultural heritage linked to the traditional uses of water. Some of the problems with which the Alba-Ter Consortium has come up against during its implementation have been:
Difficulty for different political and institutional reasons in overcoming the existing administrative limitations for the territory for the purpose of obtaining the co-ordination of a uniform territorial planning for the river space of the River Ter.
The Consortium does not have sufficient economical resources of its own to finance all the activities to be developed. Therefore, the Consortium’s activities are conditioned to a large extent to obtaining public and/or private aid and subsidies. In view of the lack of transfer of territorial and sectoral competencies linked to the river space of the
River Ter from administrative competencies, difficulty in executing specific activities for the territory since they are articulated through the operative capacity of the member municipalities.
We believe that the experience the Alba-Ter Consortium can contribute can be very useful to other territories with similar characteristics and that want to undertake or try new ways to develop their territory based on the limits defined by physical or natural criteria, such as the case of a river basin. Developing and planning in accordance with these criteria is surely an attractive commitment that is sure to be well received by the local population since it can be adapted to the needs of a territory that shares the same problems as well as opportunities.
Fruit of the recent experience of the Alba-Ter Consortium in matters of spatial development and management of a river basin in an organisation that participates in the different European programmes based on the transfer of methodologies in addition to receiving invitations to participate in forums of debate and conferences in order to make this initiative known and to be able to transfer it to other territories.
The developmental capacity of transverse policies throughout the territory that makes up the river basin, favouring equality of opportunities of all the Consortium members, independent of the dimension of their populations and/or municipal territories is a basic aspect for transferring this experience to other territories.