The Asinaro River Basin project explores the potential of river basins as physical spaces for generating practical responses to our most pressing sustainability challenges and, in the process, discovering new opportunities.
The Asinaro river basin in south east Sicily covers 85 sq km around the city of Noto, its countryside and coastal zone. Its main river, the Asinaro, runs for 22 km from its source on the Iblei plateau near Testa dell’Acqua, past Noto Antica and the baroque city of Noto, a Unesco World Heritage site, to Calabernardo on the Ionian sea.
The Asinaro is the inspiration for a network of initiatives using the river basin as a 'living laboratory' for experimenting with practical, innovative approaches to rural and urban challenges, with the active participation of local communities. The project is an idea in progress and an ongoing conversation.
"I don’t think you can love a whole planet … what’s driving the most powerful resistance movements is love of particular places"
IN A RIVER BASIN EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED
A river basin is the area of land drained by a river and its tributaries. It is one of nature's most complete, complex and dynamic ecosystems. Most of us live in a river basin and throughout history river basins have shaped landscapes, communities, cultures and civilisations. Today they have much to teach us.
River basins are living systems with clear geographic boundaries within which everything is connected. They encourage holistic thinking and holistic responses. They are potent symbols of identity around which to create awareness and encourage participation and action.
SEEING THE BIGGER PICTURE
When we start to look at local challenges around water, biodiversity, energy, food, waste, youth employment or demographic change within the 'container' of a river basin, we see them not as isolated challenges, but as connected parts of a bigger picture. With the system of the river basin in mind we can reframe complex issues, develop more integrated responses and discover opportunities.
“A river basin comes closer than any other defined area of land, with the exception of an isolated island, to meeting the definition of an ecosystem in which all things, living and non-living, are connected and interdependent”
A BASINFUL OF RESOURCES
Although one of Sicily's smaller river basins, the Asinaro contains a vast range of assets and resources - from fresh water to fertile soils, biodiversity and culture. The Iblei plateau has some of Europe's richest biodiversity and is being designated a National Park. The area is increasingly known for the archaeological remains of ancient Noto, the baroque city of Noto, and for the products of its territory - grapes, olives, lemons, oranges, almonds and carob - and much more.
THE FORGOTTEN RIVER
For over 2000 years the waters of the Asinaro have been the life force for ancient Noto and the 18th century city that stands in the middle basin today. Abundant orchards were established along the Asinaro valley by the Arabs in the 9th to 11th centuries, creating an earthly paradise that became known as the giardini di Noto.
Until a few decades ago the Asinaro basin was still highly productive and supported thriving rural communities. Today much of the land and assets in the basin are neglected and the Asinaro river, a vital resource, has been forgotten by the people of Noto. Water quality and supply is just one of a number of critical social, ecological and economic challenges within the river basin that could benefit from innovative and regenerative ideas.