Citizen Participation, Conservation and Education for a sustainable city
The Asociación Ambiente Sur was an active promoter of the gestation and creation of the System of Urban Natural Reserves (SRNU) that has Río Gallegos, which protects sites with native flora and fauna within the city borders and thus allows, through its conservation, ensure the environmental benefits that provide the local population and project a sustainable city over time. The SRNU includes the Urban Coastal Reserve, the Los Patos, Ortiz, María La Gorda lagoons, Laguna de Marina, two unnamed lagoons and the Ex Startel field.
Its origin stems from the full participation of citizens, a process firmly supported by the NGO, since it is one of the transversal axes of its work. The ordinance project for its creation was discussed at the first Public Hearing held in Río Gallegos in 2007 and sanctioned as ordinance No. 6762 in 2009. This led to the formation of the Participative Management Body, of which Asociación Ambiente Sur was part of the Promoter Group and where the Application Authority, the local University and neighborhood organizations and NGOs meet, for an integrated management of the System.
The conservation of these protected areas has had as central actions developed by our NGO the participation in the realization of the management plans of the reserves, which constitute fundamental instruments to determine the guidelines for the protection of the natural resources found in each one. of them; the economic contribution for the construction of infrastructure in the framework of the Project "Connecting Communities through Urban Natural Reserves, Environmental Education and Citizen Participation", financed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, within the framework of the application of the Law of Conservation of Neotropical Migratory Birds of that country, in its phases I and II, and of the Sustainable Initiatives Program developed together with the Banco Santa Cruz Foundation.
Through these projects, informative and interpretive posters, resting areas, a pedestrian path, fences and gazebos for bird watching and observation of the landscape were built and installed, one of them with access for people with motor disabilities, in the María la Gorda and Laguna Ortiz Reserve, and interpretive signage, a refuge for conservation agents, a pedestrian path, 4 bridges for the passage of tidal channels and a 1000 meter bike path in the Coastal Urban Reserve, among the most outstanding. In addition, the presence and control actions in the Río Gallegos estuary have been strengthened through the project "Shorebirds in the Río Gallegos estuary, Santa Cruz, Argentina", initiated in 2014 with the support of the International Conservation Fund of Canada ( ICFC). These conservation actions are also carried out as part of an active collaboration with the Municipal Environmental Agency, Application Authority in the System, with which various agreements have been signed for that purpose.
Educating to conserve
The third line of work developed by Ambiente Sur in the local RNU system is environmental awareness and education. Although from its beginnings it developed projects aimed at students of initial and primary level and its teachers, this task took a qualitative turn from the construction of the Environmental Interpretation Center "Estuary of the Gallegos River" in 2011 and its subsequent technological update and its interpretative design in 2013. Ambiente Sur was one of the contributors for its design and construction together with the Municipality of Río Gallegos and the UNPA-UARG. Currently, by an agreement with both institutions, exercises the administrative and executive management of it.
Guided visits to schools and gardens are a hallmark of the work of raising awareness of the community towards the environment and also include activities developed by the pedagogical team of the NGO.
Since 2014, Ambiente Sur has focused its awareness-raising activities on its COM.UNI.D.A.D (UNDERSTANDING Environmental Dynamics in Diversity) program. This comprehensive project was successively declared of interest by the Provincial Council of Education, the local Deliberative Council and the Chamber of Deputies of the Province of Santa Cruz.
The first campaign with a strong impact on the community developed by Ambiente Sur and aimed at raising awareness of the values and threats of the local environment was the Pride Campaign for the estuary, whose proposals and results have been replicated and considered exemplary at a global level. This campaign developed dissemination strategies in the media with spots, songs and jingles; the production and staging in a free way of the first environmental play, written, represented and directed entirely by local artists; training to different sectors of the community and, specifically, to teachers and students.
These strategies continue to be central to the awareness programs carried out by Ambiente Sur. Regarding the work directed to teachers and students in the formal education system, in the workshops provided, teaching material created by the pedagogical team is delivered, such as coloring books with the birds that are in the System and Book of activities in the SRNU, among others.
In this line, the Itinerant Reservations Project seeks to connect schools and neighbors near the reserves with these, for which environmental education talks and field trips are offered within the UN System, with specific pedagogical materials developed for teachers and students .
In this way, with a transversal approach that includes awareness, conservation and citizen participation, Ambiente Sur strengthens and develops an extensive work in the System of Urban Natural Reserves of Río Gallegos, with the purpose of ensuring for present and future generations the benefits that these wonderful urban wetlands offer us.