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Ponds with life in the municipality of Braga
City/Region : Braga , Portugal

Although Braga is one of the cities with the highest rainfall in Portugal, it has more and more intense rains that do not infiltrate water into the soils and periods of very high temperatures. Ponds are essential for maintaining biodiversity (namely amphibians, whose species are increasingly at risk of disappearing) and for mitigating temperatures and better water management. We have involved many children and young people by involving schools in their construction and maintenance and they serve for natural science practical classes.

EU Green Deal Policy Areas Addressed
Climate actionBiodiversity
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy
Context
Ana Cristina Costa / André Soares school pond

Braga has undergone changes in climate, with more days of heat waves and less rain, but with short and strong showers. The city is located in a valley which leads to high temperatures, reaching 40ºC. Increases in population, mostly young people, means that the requests for spaces linked to nature and its preservation are increasing. Thus, there was a need to invest in solutions for the preservation of biodiversity. The "ponds with life" created in public spaces such as the Pedagogical Farm and the Picoto Urban Park, as well as in schools (Escola EB 2, 3 de Tadim, de Nogueira, André Soares and Escola Secundária Carlos Amarante), allow families and teachers to explore with children, taking advantage of information panels in the first case, and the knowledge and worksheets available to teachers in the second, as well as raising children's awareness of the importance of preserving biodiversity.

In Action
Abílio Ribeiro/Building the Picoto Park pond

In 2017, a school located in a rural area, and with a lot of space, requested the collaboration of the municipality to create a pond, aiming to carry out environmental education activities, given the difficulties associated with costs and bureaucracy related to travelling outside of the school. Attracted by this solution for the protection of amphibians and the opportunity for schools to carry out more field trips quickly and easily, we organised training for teachers at the Pedagogical Farm (owned by the municipality), which has space for theoretical and practical sessions, given the existence of a river nearby. At that time, a pond was built and information posters were put up for schools and families to learn about the ecosystem and species. Later, in a local neighborhood with a water source and underused public area, a pond was created and picnic tables and benches were placed in the surroundings. Later, when creating an urban park within an autochthonous forest, which is very hot and dry, the municipality built a pond with an artisan well fed by solar panels (given the high levels of evaporation) to increase biodiversity and reduce temperatures. An information poster about the ecosystem and the species was posted. Meanwhile, three other schools requested the collaboration of the municipality to open their ponds, namely with the necessary machinery and some materials and plants. We collaborated with young people and children in the creation of the respective ponds, and the teachers, as well as volunteers of different ages in the pioneer school. The “Live Science Center” of Braga collaborated with technical support and with the supply of aquatic plants, as well as the University of Coimbra, in order to avoid the placement of invasive plants, if these were to be harvested in rivers. Some companies supported the initiative by offering advertising canvas and other materials such as cardboards and rolled stones.

The Councilor for the Environment of the Municipality of Braga expressed himself in the following terms: “The Project “Ponds with life” is of the utmost importance, first of all for the preservation of biodiversity, and for the opportunity to raise awareness of children and young people about the population in general, for the preservation of the environment.”

Integration

Braga joined the Green City Accord in 2020, which highlights, among other topics, “improving the quality of water bodies and the efficiency of water use” and “considerable progress in conserving and enhancing urban biodiversity, including through an increase in the extent and quality of green areas in cities, and by halting the loss of and restoring urban ecosystems.” Thus, the initiative of “ponds with life” (https://charcoscomvida.ciimar.up.pt/agenda?id=120), among others, aims to highlight and preserve the water quality and biodiversity of the municipality through the creation of forested areas, improvement of the water quality of the Este and Cávado rivers, the creation of a registry of the rainwater system and monitoring of the water quality, enumeration of biodiversity, photography competition on biodiversity, placement of information panels on the biodiversity throughout the county, publication of a book, guided tours for observation, publication of the Braga Green Guide, Braga Pedestrian Trails Network, etc. The Centro Ciência Viva de Braga ( Life Science Center of Braga) has an initiative that is very similar and has given support to several schools in the region (https://www.casacienciabraga.org/rede-de-charcos-ci%C3%AAncia-viva). Under the responsibility of the Municipality of Braga, as it acquires materials and mobilises people, another initiative called “Projeto Rios” can be highlighted (https://aspea.org/index.php/pt/projeto-rios?start=55) in which 500m sections of rivers and streams are adopted by entities (schools, companies, families, associations, etc. with at least 4 people) that monitor, in spring and autumn, at least one yearly improvement (collecting waste and planting riparian trees, are the cost common ones). Thus, the Municipality, as well as the NGO responsible for the project at national level, are aware of the state of the local water bodies; these bodies are improved (cleaned and with the biodiversity recovered) and there is a lot of public participation.

Results
Ana Cristina Costa/ Carlos Amarante Secondary School pond under construction

Ponds built:

- EB 2,3 de Trigal de Santa Maria (students 10 to 15 years old), built in 2013: length 16m, width 8m, depth 80cm. Activities according to the curricular component of Natural Sciences; activities at the Science and Technology Fair, within the scope of the Life Science Club and Eco-Schools projects; activities in preschool and primary school visits.

- Pedagogical Farm, built in 2017: 8m x 4m x 20m and 40 cm. Used within the scope of guided tours to teach children about amphibians and why the need to preserve these ecosystems in nature.

- Andorinhas Control Costs Neighborhood, 2018: 40m x 5m  x 10 m x 90 cm. Widely used for socialising and resting, community vegetable garden nearby.

- Picoto Urban Park, 2021: 50m x 2m y 16m x 80cm. 550 m2. Artisan well with solar panels for water replenishment. With an informative panel.

- EB 2, 3 de Nogueira, 2021: 6-7m x 3m x 60cm. Built by teachers and students.

- Escola EB 2, 3 André Soares, 2022: 5m x 2m x 80cm. Built by students and teachers. Used in natural science classes and in Eco-Schools activities.

- Escola Secundária Carlos Amarante (students aged 12 to 18 years old). Under construction,10m x 3m, between 60 and 100 cm.              

Impact

All the ponds made it possible to store rainwater, soften temperatures and increase biodiversity. In schools, and in the Pedagogical Farm, we know that activities were carried out numerous times with the teachers and technicians of the Municipality on the observed species and the represented ecosystem. In the Picoto Urban Park and in the Control Costs Neighborhood, the ponds are spaces for leisure and rest, for observing fauna and preserving biodiversity and for providing opportunities to raise awareness of the subject; people can be seen at the ponds, but they are not quantified. In Picoto we know that species that were not observed beforehand are now observed. Temperatures and air humidity were not measured either, but the presence of population is indisputable in both locations.

Challenges and lessons learned
Ana Cristina Costa/ Picoto Park pond built but without life

In the Control Costs Neighborhood the pond was created without putting up information panels afterwards because there was some hesitation in writing and illustrating it since the population has lower levels of schooling and there was fear of vandalism, however, nearby residents placed invasive species such as the Procambarus clarkii and the turtle Trachemys scripta in the area. As a result of this, in other public spaces we quickly place information to avoid similar situations.

It is best to start with the teachers training, but schools take a long time to decide to create the pond, so it is necessary to count on this waiting time.

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Contact

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
European Secretariat

Leopoldring 3
79098 Freiburg
Germany

Tel.: +49 (0) 761 – 368 92 0
Fax: +49 (0) 761 – 368 92 19

E-mail: info@sustainablecities.eu
Website: www.sustainablecities.eu

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