The proposal forms part of the voluntary work activities in the European BRIDGES programme currently taking place in Tortosa. A day cleaning the riverbanks and local riverside beach called Xiquina brings the workshop, interrupted because of the lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, to its end. Tortosa city council and the Unió de Consells Esportius de Catalunya (UCEC) are the Catalan representatives of this European initiative to promote social cohesion.
The European BRIDGES project aims to promote and support inclusive communities in Europe, working for the integration of local groups by promoting solidarity. The project’s workshops started in January with a commitment to intercultural understanding and social cohesion through three principal fields of action: sport, culture, and voluntary work. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown situation brought the activities to a temporary halt. Some of these workshops have now been able to re-start following strict guidelines and health and safety measures. One such activity is the workshop studying river invertebrates and environmental measures to protect the river Ebro, an activity with around ten participants.
The environmental workshop sessions, included in the voluntary work projects, have studied riverside vegetation and carried out studies of juvenile fish and aquatic macro-invertebrates living in the Ebro which act as bio-indicators of the river water quality in Tortosa. During the project, the participants have studied a 650-metre stretch of the river, analysing it and taking care of it, from the point where the Celio ravine meets the Ebro down to the Xiquina riverside beach.
“In my experience, nature and taking care of it are things that youngsters always love. Youngsters may show little interest in some subjects, but the conservation of nature and the environment always interests them. Especially if we are talking about the local environment and they can get hands-on experience and see real examples, rather than listening to an academic explanation of far-away problems like the Amazon. Also, being from different origins and cultures, these activities give the participants the perfect excuse to meet up and talk about and share new issues that they are finding out about,” says Viqui Carles, president of the environmental group Graëllsia and co-ordinator of the river invertebrates workshop within the BRIDGES programme.
One of the last sessions of the workshop involved collecting litter and other rubbish from the Xiquina riverside beach, to make people aware of the need to conserve local natural areas by both carrying out clean-ups and avoiding their daily deterioration. “I think the situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic may help us change our mentality. It is nature’s warning that we are weak. The relationship between humans and our natural environment must change. And our cities too. In the specific case of our workshop, the youngsters who have participated in cleaning up the river have enjoyed themselves and lived an experience that they will remember,” adds Carles.