UPLAND RING AND FUNCTIONAL ECOLOGICAL NETWORK IN CENTRAL ALAVA
The territory in which the Good Practice is developed is subject to heavy pressures, mainly urban, industrial, infrastructure and logistical. The Region is defined as an“regional agricultural vacuum” in the first planning previews. The difficult situation of the farming sector and the expectation of business generated around the high level of profits expected, made an alternative discourse coherent with the principles of sustainability very difficult. The rural population would suffer the greatest impact from this regional vision.
Against this background, many actions are being proposed and developed in the Area of the Good Practice with major repercussions for the region (large transport infrastructures, low-density residential extensions, peripheral logistics, industrial and commercial areas, and so on), producing a series of noticeable effects and alterations:
- Irreversible occupation of large areas of fertile land.
- Reduction and fragmentation of sensitive biotopes and quality rural and forestry landscapes, etc.
- Degradation and alteration of key ecological cycles and systems for life.
The processes of heavy occupation (artificialisation and fragmentation) and dispersed expansion leading to a reduction in the number of species, communities and habitats, but also the overall nature of the landscape, etc. Consequently, there was a gradual reduction in resilience and a loss of the general sustainability conditions.
The main aim of the Good Practice at that time was to try to redirect the prevailing and clearly unsustainable tendencies in territorial development, highly influenced by sector planning, towards physical, ecology-based planning.
Within this new context, a reduction in the ecological footprint and a gradual approach towards the biocapacity estimated for the reference area was considered.
As a consequence of the initiation of the work developed over the last 12 years on the Good Practice presented, today the following progress can be seen:
1. Consolidation of the planning of a network of rural and natural landscapes (mainly public) of great importance for the territory.
2. Parallel to this, a far reaching and highly significant regional information system has been developed. Its effective management and universal and immediate access facilitate its rapid inclusion in decision-making processes and allow a rapid response to the growing demand for information from the population.
3. This systemic vision of the territory is increasing social appreciation and strengthening the sense of identity of the rural population, who are beginning to see their landscape in a positive manner, as a source of innovation and progress and not as subsidised spaces or as “burdens” of the urban system.
The aims and contents of the Territorial Plan of Central Alava began to be defined within that ideological context, and meanwhile, against the ideological background of the urban development of a decade ago, many actions of great regional repercussion (extensions of residential and industrial areas, peripheral logistical and commercial areas, and so on) are proposed and developed in the Area of the Good Practice – even before being approved – producing a series of visible effects and alterations:
-Irreversible occupation of large areas of fertile land.
-Reduction and fragmentation of sensitive biotopes and quality rural and forestry landscapes.
-Increase in “intermediate” unassigned spaces, which become gradually degraded on being submitted to uncontrolled uses and activities: dumping, shanty dwellings, tree felling and fires, etc.
-Continuous threats for the small remaining areas of natural landscape elements in a mosaic that characterises the area: woodland islands, hedges and banks, streams, small wetlands and springs, etc.
-And also a loss of quality in city-countryside transition landscapes, that are constantly being destroyed or degraded
As a whole, the processes of heavy occupation and dispersed expansion were leading to a reduction in the number of species, communities and habitats, but also in the overall nature of the landscape, etc. Consequently, there was a gradual reduction in resilience and a drop in general sustainability conditions.
As a consequence of putting the aforementioned strategies into motion, today, the following progress can be seen:
-The planning of a network of rural and natural landscapes (mainly public) of great importance for the territory has been consolidated.
- Parallel to this, a far reaching and highly significant regional information system has been developed. Its effective management and universal and immediate access facilitate its rapid inclusion in decision-making processes and allow a rapid response to the growing demand for information from the population.
- This systemic vision of the territory is increasing the level of social appreciation and strengthening the sense of identity of the rural population, who are beginning to see their landscapes in a positive manner, as a source of innovation and progress and not as subsidised spaces or as “burdens” of the urban system.
Finally, it can be said that more and better information and awareness and more protection of resources in planning is leading to a higher level of social appreciation of natural resources and landscape and therefore to a more open and participative, more sensible and less opportunistic and speculative decision-making process.
Obviously, the pressures on the territory continue but, as a result of this greater social appreciation and of the growing regional culture.
- At the Plenary session of Vitoria-Gasteiz Town Hall on November 2, 2009, all of its 5 political groups have asked the Basque Government to begin urgently the appropriate procedures to declare the Montes de Vitoria region (an area covering about 15,000ha to the south of the capital) a new Natural Park (this would be the sixth in the area under study). The urgency is due to the serious danger to which, in the opinion of all groups, it is being subjected (due essentially to multiple proposals for occupation currently in the pipeline).
- On June 18, 2009, the Basque Parliament, at the request of the Provincial Council of Alava and following a huge social response, urged the Department of Industry of the Basque Government to remove and reformulate the Wind Power Sector Plan, which affected almost 90 km of mountain ranges in the area, almost all of them located within the Functional Ecological Network.
- On October 18, 2009, hundreds of people, including 202 elected representatives, met following a march through the mountains in order to deliver a petition signed by thousands at the delegation of the Government, requesting the withdrawal of the electrical corridor project that REE plans to install across the Montaña Alavesa.