Our Goals

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Our goals

Increase knowledge on the status of our rivers and on pressure factors

Prevent short-sighted policies

Promote river restoration

 

Increase knowledge on the status of our rivers and on pressure factors

Engineered channels, water pollution, withdrawal and reservoir management have led to the loss of important ecosystems, such as riparian ecotones, regularly flooded biotopes, natural stream reaches, riparian corridors with the consequent loss of environmental and biological diversity. Functions related to freshwater ecosystems and essential to the biosphere, as sediment transport, hyporheic dynamics, self-cleaning capacity of rivers, retention and removal of nitrates habe been serial affected. All this have been done with the pourpose of achieving hydraulic security but, surprisingly, in Italy we are now experiencing a generalised threat from flood events.

It is evident how the growth of impermeable lands, the irresponsible building of civil, industrial and commercial centres on risk areas have increased the frequency and magnitude of flooding and their effects.

These events could therefore not be considered as “natural disasters” but as consequences of bad management of rivers and lands.

Waste stinking water..this image could be refered to first 70's during industrial boom, or maybe China today...wrong !. This is the water coming from a water purification plant in north italy, today.

Waste stinking water..this image could be refered to first 70’s during industrial boom, or maybe China today…wrong !. This is the water coming from a water purification plant in north italy, today.

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PREVENT SHORT-SIGHTED POLICIES

The reasons of inappropriate management are thus mainly due to an approach restricted both in terms of variety of functions and evolution in time: rivers have been considered only as potential danger (and so to be tamed), or sources of energy and, frequently, a mere wastewater channel.

The main pourpose of water management policies (based on effluent control) was to guarantee a given quality and quantity of water for human needs, with little or no consideration of the ecological and environmental asset of rivers.

In order to enhance hydraulic security, rivers have been modified and engineered, rather than seeking good practices in land-use managing, leaving stream corridors wide enough to store peak floods and avoiding human activities in potential flooding areas.

Thus rivers have been impounded, deprived of their vegetation, restricted to suspended channels, embanked, interrupted by weirs, sluices, culverts, dams etc.

The same has happen for the ditches networks, transformed in order to reclaim land for agriculture or settlement. The maintenance of such waterways is still based on removal of any kind of vegetation and on dragging and reshaping channels.

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This has led to a generalised decay of quality of ecosystems and has created the conditions for higher water velocities, severe erosion of banks, river bed incision and then infrastructures instabilities.

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This uncoordinated, oriented (or disoriented?) public management have frequently allowed pirating of stream resources, mainly through gravel and sand withdraval.

Low public environmental awareness has been the fertile substrate for these policies and behaviours.

 

PROMOTE RIVER RESTORATION

It is urgent to change direction and move towards river restoration. With river restoration we mean a set of integrated and synergic actions and strategies,(legislatives, administratives, infrastructurals), aiming at creating a more natural environment on river corridors and on surrounding lands (‘the fluvial system’). The fluvial system would be able to carry out its ecosystem service (geomorphological, chemical and biotical) enhancing environmental values, and trying at the same time to fulfil economical and social objectives (minimizing flood risk, efficient use of water resources, hydropower production etc..).

River restoration is based on infrastructures, practices and management, by means of an integrated approach in which active participation of social and institutional stakeholders plays a key role. It is also necessary to admit that proposals from stakeholders are most frequently in conflict each others. For this reason, participated solutions must be found in order to maximise environmental and social benefits and leaving, as far as possible, none “worse than before”.

The essential lines of an innovative approach are:

How to manage decision making

  • systemic vision, that considers interrelations between components and processes, and holistic approach, in order to evaluate the effects from all relevant points of view;
  • participation and negotiation of all the involved stakeholders, whose interests are often in conflict; integrated evaluation of actions based on multicriteria analysis;
  • multidisciplinary and interaction among professionals with different background to avoid the mere engineering approach.

Actions

  • restore river wide spaces, in order to ensure flood control, natural geomorphologic evolution, ecosystem and natural landscape development, ecological corridors enhancement, phytodepuration (buffer ecosystems);
  • Enhancing actions producing multiple benefits
    • Restoring riparian vegetation could increases the ecological value, enhance the river water natural treatment capacity and could produce benefits in managing flood peaks, reducing flow velocities.
    • Decreasing the number of engineering infrastructures along rivers on the base of a scientific assessment at river basin scale. This could enhance the ecological restoration and at the same time contribute to re-equilibrate sediment budgets, and finally decrease instabilities structures (as bridges) risks
    • Creating footpaths and recreational areas without increasing the number of artificial structures
  • Choose low impact criteria and techniques (natural engineering) for hydraulic defence (in particular against erosion and establishing flooding areas) and promote actions to restore and exploit natural environments;
River restoration project, with river banks drifting in order to restore river space (Emme river, Switzerland - Foto rielaborata da: Requena P., Weichert R.B. & Minor H.-E., 2006).

River restoration project, with river banks drifting in order to restore river space (Emme river, Switzerland – Foto rielaborata da: Requena P., Weichert R.B. & Minor H.-E., 2006).