On the 24th Día da Ciencia na Rúa (Street Science Day) CuacFm spoke with Amal Nnechachi, a Cartolab researcher, about the Monelos River Revival (MonRiveR) project.
Amal's research work is closely linked to Ángeles Huerta Esquece Monelos' (Forget Monelos) documentary. Both the film and the project try to discover the Monelos River, a river that is buried under the city of A Coruña and that many people do not know that exists and that now they are trying to study its recovery.
Amal believes that many citizens do not know that they live above a river. "MonRiveR is a project that arises by chance after collaborating in the elaboration of the film of Angels, in the technical part, in the recovery of data and in the compilation and identification of the original layout of the river." (In fact, Amal appears in Esquece Monelos" credits as Engineer 3.)
Amal continues: "I was doing a research master's degree at the time and they proposed that I collaborate in the film and that I do the first part that would be the study of the history of that river. But collaborating in that film created the need to continue researching because there was a lot of material, there were many things that could be done from the point of view of engineering. Engineering is the same engineering that buried the river. But, at present, we have tools and directives that could lead, even if it is not an immediate or integral recovery, to facilitate the change to the paradigm at European level about our relationship with urban rivers, above all due to climate change and the protection of the environment."
Amal stresses that a fundamental part of the project is that it has to be made known so that people are also involved. "The involvement of citizens in doing something positive for their city would help the project move forward. It's ambitious, but it's not just a dream, it could be fulfilled even in parts."
The CuacFm journalist asks Amal how Ángeles Huerta's film already explains the need for MonRiveR. The engineer explains that although she is not the best person to talk about the film, from my point of view, the documentary makes a parallel between the oblivion of the human being, the Alzheimer's disease and how the citizens forgot the river. "Because since we don't see it, we don't know it exists, it's no longer named. However, the part of the project also has an important technical component that we are going to see what options there are, making a study, a numerical simulation, taking samples, analysing the sections, even identifying the layout well, because we know the current layout that has many differences with the original. The river basins have changed a lot, then the flow has changed. In addition to the other component of the study that is informative, which is that of citizen participation, that the population can have their voice and opinion and know how the river is."
Amal goes on to tell something about the history of the Monelos River: "In the case of A Coruña, the layout of the river began to be modified with the post of the colonies, the San Diego wharf was filled in and there began to be modified at the beginning of everything. Then came the modifications in the north station. The rivers have first been channelled, then hidden and that is not only here in A Coruña. In fact, the developing countries are copying how badly we have done it. Why? Because it is the quickest solution. There was also a demand that when I have a problem, what I want is for you to find me a quick solution. What happens now that we see that it can be done in another way, we can live together and the river has the value of ecosystem service, that ecosystem approach, which gives economic value, which can economically value natural resources and all that we have to promote so that the river has that value and not just want to be hidden to occupy its place by houses or streets."
Amal emphasizes that what I want to do in this project is study the river and make a complete diagnosis and see what can be done. "I can't get ahead of myself to say what zones I want to open here or there. There are areas, in the outskirts, that it is clear that they can be opened in a way, let's say that in the short term, it is viable and does not imply many means because it would be to go backwards from what was done in 2008, which are the area of Expo-Coruña upstream. All this can be discovered because there is still space and, in fact, the general plan reserves a little space."
Amal once again emphasizes the idea that his main objective is to get to know the river, study it, see what it was like. "In fact, in a first approach, of the tasks I had to carry out the project I had thought of doing a study of how the basin was historically, including some hydraulic study. What happens is that we have realized that the basin is so modified that this would not give information right now. The basins are very fragmented, they has been left in two large basins: one that continues to pour at the point where it did in San Diego but another goes to the treatment plant in Coruña."
Amal would like to try to convince the public about the importance of the river, not manipulate it. "There are times when just by making things known, people value it. Many people don't know that it exists, and others who know that it exists see that it's impossible to recover anything; because they tell you: it's already a sewer or it has nothing to do, and then we despair and do nothing. What we have to do is involve them in the study, let them know how the river is. There are already people who are involved, there are groups of citizens who have this homesickness, as they say in Galician, of the river because as you can see in the film, there are people who washed in the river, who bathed in the river. Even if it is said that it had little flow, I still can't say for sure, but it doesn't seem to have so little. It was not a very big river but it was a basin that to have in a park to walk we don't necessarily have to have huge flows, and the natural space around us can be valued."
Amal ends by saying that this project has funding for two years. "It is modest in terms of resources but ambitious in terms of study. The technical part is part of my doctoral thesis, so for the sake of it I want to do my best."
(Adapted from the transcript of the interview conducted by CuacFM on May 4, 2019 to Amal Nnechachi at the XXIV Día da Ciencia na Rúa)