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THE BESĎS RIVER – FROM OPEN SEWER TO PARK
by Jaume V. Aroca

(...) At the end of the 1980s, the Bes˛s had attained the dubious honour of being one of the most polluted rivers in Catalonia. The degradation of the Bes˛s has not only resulted in the destruction of most of the numerous plant and animal species that inhabited it (...). In 1981, the Bes˛s Basin Defence Consortium was formed, as an association of the municipalities bordering on the river. It was in the context of this association that the suggestion was put forward for the first time ever that the river might be rehabilitated and recovered for purely civic uses. (...) These proposals include the plan for the Bes˛s Narrows, the project for restoration of the river’s lower reaches, between the Montcada municipalities and the river’s mouth, or the plan, already in a very advanced state of definition, for the organisation of the Barcelona and Sant AdriÓ sea front and the layout of the area that is to be the site of the Forum 2004. The European Union agreed last year to provide structural funds for the second of those projects, and work is now well under way in the municipalities of Montcada and Santa Coloma. When this work is completed, a riverside park will have been created, running 4 kilometres from Montcada. (...) In the municipality of Santa Coloma, a promenade open only to pedestrians and cyclists will run parallel to the river. There will be new points of access through the walls built in 1969 to contain flash-floods and adjustable pneumatic dikes will be installed to stabilise the current of the decontaminated Bes˛s River. (...) The overall plan for the park, designed by the town planning agency Barcelona Regional, calls for extension of the riverside promenade starting in Santa Coloma as far as the viaducts of the A19 motorway in Sant AdriÓ. From this point to its mouth, the bed of the Bes˛s is to be widened as far as the present retaining walls. (...) Plans for the sea front envision four different but interlinked zones. The first of these will comprise the area beginning at the breakwater where Mar Bella Beach now ends, where the plan calls for reclamation of some 24 hectares (extending to a distance 150 metres off shore), for the site of the new zoo and marine park, where some of the animals now living in the Ciutadella zoo will be moved. The esplanade will extend along the sea wall of this new land and platforms will be built for sea bathing. There are also plans to build a barrier some 50 metres offshore to ensure calm waters along this stretch of coast. The second zone for development under the new project begins at the level of Rambla Prim and this is where the future expansion of the Bes˛s sewage treatment plant will be located. Some 9 hectares of land are also to be reclaimed from the sea here for the purpose of extending the esplanade. (...) The third planned zone includes the new Sant AdriÓ marina. It nevertheless preserves a part of its original characteristics: an inner harbour with 1,100 berths. The marina will be located at the end of the Diagonal. The last of the proposed zones takes in the area from the eastern docks of the new marina to the mouth of the Bes˛s River. The plan for this zone calls for consolidation of 500 metres of new beach on the sea front and, in the interior, between the Ronda Litoral and the railway lines, modernisation of the installations already there -a refuse incinerator and a power plant whose future has yet to be decided- to allow them to co-exist with the extensive 20-hectare park that will be created in this zone. (...)