MedCities training session for members: waste management, energy efficiency and mobility issues at the forefront!

During March, the first two training modules of the capacity building cycle organized by MedCities took place. These training modules were addressed to MedCities members and covered several topics related to the environmental management of municipalities, and the management of their solid waste residues.

The modules were tailored to the needs of MedCities members, and each one of them consisted on a set of three online sessions. During the first sessions, participants could learn and share their point of view regarding the status of the topic in the Mediterranean area, the main challenges and also which opportunities of action exist. The first session of the Environmental management training module, was provided by Silvia Castañé from Lavola, expert in environmental management.

The participants could learn about possible nature-based solutions to be implemented in urban areas, such as: green roofs, urban and peri-urban parks, forest or green corridors, green urban furniture, how to make transport infraestructure greener, urban gardens, river restoration for flood control, lake restoration, managed realignment and restoration for coastal wetlands, sand dunes, sustainable drainage systems, rainwater harvesting systems or pervious surfaces among many others. 

In the case of the municipal solid waste management, this was provided by several expets on the topic. Dr. Verónica Martínez Sánchez (fundació ENT) provided an overview of the environmental impact of waste management, the waste hierarchy, the importance of waste prevention and which are the main challenges and opportunities in the Mediterranean region, and which potential actions can a municipality perform in order to overcome such challenges. Francesco Lembo, from ACR+ made a presentation on how to include concepts of circular economy in public procurement processes, in order to reduce the waste produced. Afterwards, participants could learn from Dr. Rosaria Chifari (ENT) about different methods on waste collection and treatment. In this section, participants could identify strengths and weaknesses of each one of the existing collection systems, and how do they work in different types of municipalities. Dr. Chifari also provided information related to the different treatment options for each waste type.

 

Finally, both training modules finalized with two similar presentations, focusing on one hand on financing opportunities for the implementation of described measures, and on the other hand on the crucial role that citizens play in the proper implementation of measures, providing tips and examples of implemented measures to involve citizens in different municipalities.

The second session was focused on learning about previous experience from Mediterranean cities. This was done by providing real examples of implemented measures, not only focusing on the implemented action itself, but also on the importance of a good and integrated planning, coordination between municipalities departments and which role did the citizens involvement played in the success of the action.

For example, in this environmental management training module, Silvia Castañé provided different cases of municipalities such as the EcoSitema Filtro of the Molentargius- Saline Regional Natural park, who had constructed wetlands which not only managed to treat wastewater, but also increased the amount of flora and fauna in the municipality, by providing a safe habitat for those. Ms.Castañé also highlighted the importance of engaging citizens when planning and implementing project, and exposed projects which success relied on this fact, such as the Urban agriculture office included in the city strategic agenda of Amman. This project managed to plant 4.000 urban gardens in Amman, and transform 300 rooftops to green roofs, thus increasing food security, social inclusion, and promoting the sustainable use of water.

 

Another interesting NBS project providing many benefits to the implemented municipality was the Ethnobotanical garden at the Dar Taliba boarding house, in Ourika Valley. This action included training for nearby students and local staff on how to grow vegetables, take care of the soil, produce organic fertilizer, etc.

This program started in 2015 and it is still ongoing, having benefited so far 700 Moroccan girls and their families. A very similar project stablised in Beeqa Valley. In this case many Libanese and Syrian refugees came together and transformed unused patches of land and transformed them into urban and peri-urban gardens. They received formation in aspects such as cultivation techniques, how to deal with plagues, insects, create organic compost, and learnt how to put into practice middle-eastern agricultural practices. The knowledge generated during this action is going to be put in practice in Lebanesse schools.

During this session, Ms.Eugenia Vidal, landscape architect and urban designer from the department of infrastructure and Innovation of AMB. Ms. Vidal shared with the participants the implementation of some NBS in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, such as the Collserola Functional Space, from which different guidelines to define an in-between area between the city and the park, or the Collserola Farm Management Plan. This last one is an example of corresponsability example of public-private spaces, where they stablished some benefits to the private owners to manage the land in a manner which provides win-win solutions both for the private owner and the metropolitan area of Barcelona. The importance of an optimal planning dimension was also highlighted by Eugenia, specially under the threads of climate change and consequent increasing threats such as surface-water runoff, problematics o recharge of aquifers, etc. In relation to blue infrastructure, Ms. Eugènia Vidal provided a very successful project: the management of Hybrid dunes, which managed to manage the dunes ecosystem, raise awareness and provide coastal defense to erosion and increase of sea level. Participants could also learn about citizens science through the project "Metropolitan Butterfly Observatory" and "AMB real wildlife observatory".

In the case of municipal solid waste management, participants could learn from real examples implemented in different municipalities. Ms. Françoise Bonnet, from ACR+ brought the case of La Soukra, a municipality of 130.000 citizens and an in-house and commercial waste production of approximately 40.000 tonnes per year. La Soukra developed a local action plan to put into practice a system to enable the management of the recyclable fractions. This example illustrated how important it is to have a good diagnostic of the situation, hold meetings among all interested parts, and properly define all scenarios and plan interventions. They installed 40 cages with a capacity of 1m3 each, implemented a door-to-door collection system, and regularized already existing informal waste-pickers. This is similar to the project exposed by Mr. Mustapha Benboya from the municipality of Rabat, where they successfully formalized and trained 157 informal waste-pickers and constructed a waste-sorting center. Ms. Bonnet also showed other intitiatives, such as the MED-InA project, financed by the ENI  CBCMED program. Mr. Lluís Amengual, environmental technician of EMAYA, explained the case of Palma city center. In Palma they tried different systems that were expensive and unsuccessful, and afterwards decided to start a participatory process hat consisted on 6 sessions and managed to bring together 60 different organizations.

As a result of this participatory process, they started the mobile waste collection system, which was implemented through different phases in the historical city center.

This was carried on in parallel with an educational campaign. The system, much cheaper than the previous unsuccessful solid waste collection system, managed to increase the recycled fraction from a 14% in 2016 to a 72% on the first 6 months of implementation of the project. Another interesting example was the one of Chania and Seville, where they managed to optimize waste collection routes by installing sensors that provided information regarding how full the containers were.

Finally, the third session consisted on a highly interactive discussion between smaller groups of participants, in which they had to apply the concepts of the first two sessions in a fictitious case-scenario. This led to very interesting discussions among members of different MedCities municipalities, who managed to collaborate and design optimal solutions to tackle the problematics encountered in the case-scenario.

During the month of April, two more modules will take place: Energy efficiency and Mobility, each one of them with the three corresponding online sessions.

After the end of the third session, participants are invited to apply for a mentoring process in each one of the four topics. During this process the 12 awarded municipalities will analyse, together with the experts on each training module, the current status of the municipality in the topic, select one action to tackle identified challenges and prepare an executive summary of a project aiming at providing direction towards the implementation of the selected measures.