Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Sweet, Clean, and Green Lana River

The Lana River flowing through the middle of Tirana has been given a place of honor in the city; wide boulevards run on either side, decorative lamp posts light its waters at night, and both banks have been planted with grass, trees, and bushes. However, the river itself has a less-than pleasing smell and often carries with it much of the rubbish that gets swept down storm drains.
The challenge for the citizens and government of Tirana is to find a way to make the river cleaner, greener, and more enjoyable.
One idea for a cleaner river is to create miniature wetlands where storm drains enter the river, thus providing a natural cleaning of  some of the water that enters the Lana River. Such wetlands could be based on the bio-cleaning ideas behind the Living Machines. Of course, a challenge will be to enable to miniature wetlands to  cope with large quantities of water during storms. To reduce runoff volumes, green roofs should be introduced around Tirana.
To reduce the rubbish or garbage found in the river, we as the residents of Tirana will have to make a concerted effort to ensure that all rubbish is placed in adequate rubbish bins and dumpsters so that it does not end up in the river. A concerted effort to implement recycling schemes, penalize improper disposal, and educate our fellow residents on how and why we can and should have a cleaner city would also help. More details on rubbish-reduction proposals will likely need to be the topic of another post.
Once the Lana River is cleaned up, one way to increase its value to the citizens would be to create small, winding pedestrian paths, playgrounds, and exercise stops along the river. Another idea is to create a series of small dams and locks and a few canoe-rental locations to turn the river into a navigable channel, albeit a very shallow one that is just wide enough for two canoes and perhaps a waterfowl or two. The slower-moving Lana could have a few wider ponds with aquatic plants to further clean the river. Some of the current pedestrian and vehicular bridges could be fitted with tastefully designed second floors that house restrooms and cafes. Having clean public restrooms on every bridge would reduce the temptation that some have of making the area under the bridges into less-clean versions of the same. The proceeds from licensing canoe rental firms and leasing space for coffee houses could fund the maintenance of the restrooms, paths, playgrounds, grounds-keeping, and miniature boat locks. If the city doesn't have the funds to put together this project, it could implement a build-operate-and-transfer (BOT) scheme in which a private investor or consortium would provide the upfront capital investment, recoup the investment, and transfer the infrastructure over to the city after a predetermined length of time.
The city could also cooperate with the national government to make the Lana River clean and navigable for fish, waterfowl, and small recreational canoes or kayaks all the way to the Adriatic Sea. This would make Tirana and the region a much more attractive, pleasant, and fun place to live, visit, and do business in.

What are your thoughts, criticisms, and ideas for a cleaner, greener, more fun, and sweeter-smelling Lana River?

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