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Water identity and memories of water as instruments of the Government of the territory

Francesco Vallerani
Ca' Foscari University of Venice

One of the most significant aspects of the environmental system and the secular geo-historical evolution of most of the landscapes is made up of the coexistence between human settlements and inland waters. It is not just a valuable accumulation of suggestive amphibian landscapes but also a hydrographical network that requires urgent and appropriate interventions relating to the management of the flows, controlling water quality and the social use of riverside areas. In the case of regions strongly characterized by the urban sprawl. The increasing attention for river corridors, from main to secondary ones, can be seen as a necessary strategic choice in order to counteract the effects of the massive urban expansion which has involved coasts, plains, hills, marshy lands and mountain basins.

This initial reflection is a widely debated issue in all Western countries, or rather, with a high level of creation and application of new technologies. Meanwhile, environmental attitudes and sensitivities are consolidated at all levels of social life and, although in most cases they do not manage to encourage paradigmatic innovations with good results, at least we have made a considerable contribution of accurate intellectual analysis that long ago has been influencing the popular imagination and speeches, which stimulates also a multifaceted and shared code of conduct.

And indeed, it is precisely within the territories densely urbanized where rivers and lake water areas, in addition to the articulated branch of the artificial network, can be still considered important territorial elements in which you can see a consistent heritage formed by secular sedimentation of peculiar human activities intersecting with meaningful and valuable sections of residual nature. The recent revaluation of the recreational use of the river banks, forests and meadows on the banks of natural and artificial lakes, as well as the creation of itineraries for excursions along the river system, expresses a need for nature and a turistic-recreational experience that differs from the usual flows to destinations consecrated and deserves to be taken into consideration.

Currently we have more and more scientific studies focused on the many types of water assets, as in the case of the recent publication edited by the Landscape Observatory of Catalonia, dedicated specifically to the close relationship between landscape, heritage and water analysed thanks to the recovery of spatial memory. These studies allow to rediscover and trace part of those significant cultural and symbolic links referring to the prolonged process of construction of water landscapes in Europe, and this effort for the recovery of memory represents the need for a new "hydrological humanism." And water as a common good raises questions increasingly urgent demanding an appropriate continental policy, a policy of operational difficulty which is due not so much to the fragmentation of national decisions as the widespread influence the rhetoric of an outdated modernism, preventing a paradigm shift aimed at the competent multifunctional management for hydric elements. Today, therefore, we must continue in the formation of communities aware of this, and the fact that we start form the river corridors is an easy operational choice when elaborating stories being able to oppose the single thought of speculative planning, but especially when suggesting valid alternatives to respond with reasonable firmness to the uniform greyness of a territorial short-sighted technocracy.

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