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Environmental conservation: the legacy of "Pirincho" Roquel

Asociación Ambiente Sur wants to join the tributes and recognitions made to Hector "Pirincho" Roquel on the occasion of his death, which will mean a great loss for our organization for the support and commitment that he always gave to our work. We find in him a person who, in addition to his personal values and as a political man by all, was a pioneer in the Province of Santa Cruz in promoting public policies for the conservation of the environment and, from that place, which is our sphere of action, we want to remember him

"Pirincho" was one of the first to entrust and support the initiative of a group of citizens of Río Gallegos who wanted to join together to take steps and conservation measures in urban environments that conserve native flora and fauna, through campaigns, environmental education , scientific research and with a component in which Héctor Roquel always believed and promoted, taking words and convictions to the facts: citizen participation as a guarantee of control so that conservation measures are implemented and then sustained over time. That group was the beginning of the Asociación Ambiente Sur in 2007.

In that sense, whoever held the maximum responsibility in the Municipality of Río Gallegos as Intendant for two periods, created in its first administration the Municipal Environmental Agency, whose fundamental mission was focused on protecting as an Application Authority an extraordinary ecosystem which is the estuary of the Río Gallegos, recognized in 2005 for being a Site of International Importance for migratory shorebirds. Subsequently, the Agency was also an Application Authority in the System of Urban Natural Reserves (SRNU), constituting Rio Gallegos in a pioneer city in our province in the conservation of its environment.

Thus, with its political decision and commitment from the management, it was possible through participatory stages to sanction in 2004 the municipal ordinance No. 5356, which created the Urban Coastal Reserve of Río Gallegos, protecting the estuary and its fauna and flora that, due to the advance of the city on the coast and a community that did not know the richness of these environments, was seriously threatened.

From the sanction of the ordinance, continuous progress was made in demarcation, control, signaling and in the inter-institutional elaboration of the management plan, which defines the spaces and uses that are given to each one of them.

They were assured in this way inestimable environmental benefits for the city, which will last over time and for the new generations, which is not a bombastic description but realistic, given the global environmental conditions, of which our city does not escape.

Another central issue that unveiled "Pirincho" in environmental matters during his administration was the transfer of the municipal dump, which still causes a very strong impact on the coastal reserve and the city, affecting public health. Many were the steps taken then, among them, the municipal administration that conducted a considerable investment so that professionals from the UNPA-UARG and external, designed the project that would allow the integral management of urban solid waste, with proposals for recycling , construction of a transfer plant and a new waste disposal site far from the city and with a useful life of more than 30 years. This was a dream that Héctor Roquel could not see carried out since, although in subsequent negotiations the funds were obtained, the aforementioned problems have not yet been solved.

Our Association accompanied this project with awareness campaigns of the community, campaigns in the media, implementation of a pilot plan for composting in a neighborhood of the city, workshops, training, production of the first play of environmental theater for children, etc. . It was the so-called Pride for the Estuary Campaign, which was supported by its management, raising citizen awareness of the resources and benefits that this ecosystem gives the city.

Citizen participation for conservation

A milestone in environmental matters and citizen participation had it as a protagonist: the call in 2007 for the first public hearing in the city to discuss the ordinance project that created the System of Urban Natural Reserves (SRNU) in Río Gallegos, which included to the estuary, lagoons and sites with native flora and fauna within the municipal limits.

That Audience was a model in its format and execution since it had the participation of NGOs specialized in the subject, the training of officials and citizens for its convocation and the publication of citizen training booklets and the book "Ciudadanía" by Alejandro Rojo Vivot.

In 2009, the Deliberative Council approved ordinance No. 6762 that created the SRNU. This ordinance contemplates the creation of a Participative Management Entity of the reserves, which was instituted by Roquel through Decree No. 5244/11, thus ensuring participation in the management of these environments not only of the State but also of NGOs , University and neighbors.

His desire for transparency and participation was also evident during his tenure with the decision to approve the Municipal Organic Charter, which would have made it possible to translate the progress made in environmental matters into the constitution of the city. The budget for it was not approved by the then Deliberative Council.

In 2011, shortly after completing his second term, Roquel left the Environmental Interpretation Center "Estuary del Río Gallegos" inaugurated, the only one of its kind in Patagonia, on which occasion, showing his way of understanding public matters and without political selfishness, made it possible to unify the efforts of the Municipality, UNPA-UARG and our NGO to achieve the construction of the Center. It is noteworthy that Rio Gallegos served with these very rich institutional processes to inspire other cities of the province and the Patagonian region to protect their original environments.

In this brief space we have tried to summarize the legacy of "Pirincho" Roquel in the matter of conservation and, in particular, to publicly express our gratitude as an Institution to their trust and support, which transcends the parties and speaks of a Politician in capital letters.

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