The city of Medellín in Colombia has triggered its environmental alerts due to the air pollution detected by the monitors. The latest forest fire on Mount Quitasol triggered the orange alert throughout the urban area, highlighting the need to urgently invest in environmental awareness projects and programs.
A few days before this tragedy took place, the Corantioquia environmental authority decreed a red alert in the urban area that extends through the valley of Aburra made up by 10 municipalities, about five million people live there.
The result of the most recent monitoring delivered by the Metropolitan Area, a governmental entity, forced the authorities to take important measures to try to mitigate the risk caused by the forest fire.
Among the most relevant indicators, it was detected that the major sources of pollution are the increase of the automotive fleet, the reduction of quality public spaces and the absence of natural parks or green areas as a result of urban densification.
With the idea of contributing directly to reduce the pollution of the city and create environmental awareness among the population, a group of citizens of the municipality of Bello, organized themselves in order to propose actions that would improve air quality in the area. Further more, they would protect one of the most representative places of the municipality, where all the Aburra Valley may be seen.
Cerro Quitasol is located north of the Aburra Valley in the municipality of Bello and has an approximate height of 2,880 meters above sea level. This place has an unexplored archaeological wealth and is visited by families and walkers who want to enjoy a natural space near the city.
In order to empower citizens to recover their environmental heritage, a group of citizens started an idea that would soon become a reality and contribute to the care and protection of the natural resources of the city and its metropolitan area.
It evolved into the “Sembratón Quitasol”. The project consists of carrying out a massive planting of native trees, where all citizens are invited to participate and sponsor the tree planted, to ensure the care of the plant At least the first years of life.
In previous months, it has been citizens who have carried out different activities to safeguard what they consider as environmental and cultural heritage of the region, as is also a space known as the Railroad Workshops, an architectural complex where it was installed. For the first time the railway industry and that today are almost ruins.
Sembratón Quitasol was the result of the indignation that some citizens feel, seeing how each year at the same time the fires devour the little plant material that with so much difficulty has grown in Quitasol, due to the aridity of the soil and abandonment In which the Municipality has in one of the few green places that we still have in the city.
Located privileged contiguous to the administrative headquarters of the company Metro de Medellín, this place that was delivered by the nation to the municipality of Bello with specific destination to develop cultural projects for the municipality and has been the subject of private property interests with the collaboration of the municipal administration.
It is a patrimonial land of almost 79 thousand square meters and what the inhabitants of Bello, ask is that the initial destination that is for education, art and culture is respected.
Fighting the fires
Contrary to what the municipality wants, that is to divide the space and to construct houses disguised of social interest, commercial and administrative spaces and to leave a small space for a school of music.
Since that moment on, citizens have been organizing in hope of creating solutions that can guarantee the care of assets and natural resources, such as the Cerro Quitasol that was already affected by fires.
The most recent was in the month of February. This fire ended with 98 hectares of fauna and flora in the hill Quitasol. The conflagration spread and lasted for three days while the authorities managed to shut it down. This generated the activation of the orange alert for environmental pollution in the city of Medellín.
When the fire was extinguished and the environmental contamination alerts were reached. It began with the propagation of the project of the seed. Thanks to a collective ideology, it became a change alternative. An example was a yellow flower massive sowing and making a symbol that was seen from any part of the Aburra valley.
Another idea has been the creation of forest fire hydrants, where firefighters can quickly access water. One of the problems that have been showcased when fires take place is the time it takes firefighters to access the water resource that is considerably far from the hill.
Besides the environmental importance of the hill, it also has an added value that contributes to the historical heritage of the municipality. It has an archaeological wealth that has not been evaluated and has only been seen by visitors who have managed to experience the roads and Prehispanic ruins.
This archaeological wealth has been neglected since the relevant entities have not carried out an archaeological study capable of accurately analyzing the historical value of this heritage. The citizens managed to finalize a proposal to find a declaration of protection as a natural park.
Due to the fact that private properties are located on the hill, the territorial planning plan of the municipality of Bello is excessively up the hillside, which allows the construction and creation of real estate projects, which weaken the structure Base of the hill.
Since there are properties that were once private and nowadays belong to the municipal administration, such as the farm Corrales, a property belonging to the Mayor, located on the hill and that the citizens have taken the initiative to propose the idea of turning it into an environmental classroom and thus creating a space for educational training in terms of care and environmental protection.
The nursery proposal
Another proposal is the construction of two nurseries on the hill capable of being self-sustaining and preserving the different plant species used in constant planting. These two nurseries would be at different points of height since each species has a different care and production.
The idea it to plant natives species in the nursery. In the metropolitan area there are more than 20 species that can be considered native and the same biotic material can be generated in nurseries. Knowledge about how to grow and to germinate different species, besides the care of the flora in the hill.
Another of the issues addressed in citizen meetings and has been the central axis of the proposals raised is the environmental component. Trying to massify the importance of creating a collective conscience thta knows how to recognize environmental factors, not only in the massive planting but also in the daily life of each family.
With all these proposals on the table and the ideas that were still emerging from citizens, the call for the sowing of two thousand trees on Mount Quitasol began. A call that was generated in social networks and with the support of organizations as Metropolitan Area, Corantioquia, Antioquia Governorate and Bello Mayoralty, expanding the message of citizen participation in the event of massive planting.
The schedule of activities began with the knowledge about the soil onthe hill. For this, guided walks and evaluations took place, professionals such as anthropologists, environmental engineers, geologists and environmentalists came along and supported them.
In this first survey, it was possible to carry out an evaluation with sampling and observation exercises to determine the acidity of the soil, the quality in the different layers of altitude of the hill and to obtain the analysis on which species to plant in which part of to do so.
For our natural resources
Under the name of Sembratón for the Quitasol, the implementation of the proposal began with the help of the entities and the citizen collective, based on the advances that the institutions as Metropolitan Area had already carried out and based on the processes that Had already been determined as technically viable and that also had a share of high citizen participation.
In addition to asking the peoples participation in the massive sowing, they wanted to create a link between the people who participated and the tree that they had planted. By doing so, more future events to visit the trees and take care of them and contribute to the preservation of the hill.
Instructing people on how to perform the sowing and imparted information about the plant for the sowing is crucial.
Two weeks before the event took place, different activities were carried out in order to prepare the ground for the planned sowing in favorable conditions. These activities were to delimit the land where the trees were to be planted, to make the hole with the appropriate distance and to prepare the soil with solvents and vitamins in the fertilizer.
On April 22nd the sowing took place. More than 2,000 people particpated and they started arriving since 6 am. Each person recieved a plant to sow, a hydrogel to do the sowing correctly and was shown the hole selected for his plant.
The organization of the people was done through the division of citizen groups, as well as staff from the entities that were directing the public to the designated area.
The massive sowing event called upon people to work for their natural resources. In addition to raising awareness about the care and protection of the environment. One of the messages was the appropriation of nature, monitoring their care and preservation and to have a cleaner air quality.
With cultural events by artists of the municipality and illustrious people who have had a relationship for many years with the hill, as well as theater performances, the event began at 7 am and ended at 11 in the morning, it carried out until 2 pm with cultural events. The climate contributed to the massive sowing since the day before it had rained facilitating the work and the day of the event was warm and fresh. This made the sowing activity to be carried out in a speedy manner. As a consequence, some attendees decided to plant more than a tree during the day.