C-1313 is a research and artistic production project around the old C-1313, a road that was flooded around 1999-2000, due to the construction of the Rialb reservoir. It is a long-term project -which has had different phases, recoveries- and its aim is to reflect and dialogue what the construction of a mega hydraulic structure such as the Rialb reservoir could mean.
A project full of contrasts. From the memories, or the drama that it meant for old inhabitants, to the new uses that have been erected. Personal experience, for me - and for many other people - full of childhood memories, of Sunday trips to Andorra to buy sugar, Regilait powdered milk cans, cheeses, butter, chocolate ... And small villages how Tiurana, Bassella, Castellnou de Bassella ... Today disappeared due to the construction of the reservoir of Rialb. Or when in 2000 we approached these spaces, and we lived on one hand the drama of inhabitants, who had to leave and on the other the birth of these new uses. The incidence of news about Tiurana, and its flooding in the media, caused an avalanche of people with different interests and priorities who approached the area, from the restlessness and rejection of inhabitants. Some, out of curiosity or gossip ... Or as couples and people who took pictures of themselves in a contrast between this supposed happiness and an environment that at that time showed the drama of that forced emigration. Others were moved by pillage, or by the romantic and perhaps morbid vision of seeing the remains of houses and buildings floating on the water. In this sense, in Rialb and to avoid this reality, they opted for destruction, bulldozers threw houses, churches, hermitages before the water up... Then came the Romanian immigrant fishermen, the sport leisure activities inside the reservoir, kayaks ... Or other land activities how motorbike circuits, quads... How there are today for example, where was located the Bassella old town.
Reservoirs uproot many people, a human aspect that is rarely taken into account when deciding on their construction. Talking about people's feelings, about their affections, about the links between them and their territories. The loss of a territory always implies an important mismatch, a deep wound in the life of its inhabitants. The rise of water represents the disappearance of a whole territory, the denial of all their vision, they will never again see those crops, roads, houses, orchards ... Nor will they be able to return. From the distance of the new computer software it is very easy to fall into the fascination of these mega hydraulic projects. From the aseptic space of engineers or architects we can build and deconstruct a whole territory in nothing, eluding the emotional part and the life of people.
Many times, the construction of reservoirs implies an affectation that goes far beyond expropriations, dismantling and eliminating rivers, populations, communications -that normally go next to the river- and relationships between people.
Destroying or affecting the cultural and natural heritage and its history. The relocation of buildings, which is carried out in many of these cases, as happened in Rialb - and which never ceases to surprise us - necessarily entails an alteration of their intrinsic meaning. The buildings are not mere external or outward forms, but it is essential to understand the value of their location, orientation, or the elements that the land may contain and that have not yet been discovered, as new possibilities for study, which the relocation eliminates definitively. Very often, unfortunately, the move also alters the final form, introducing new elements - supposedly to facilitate comfort and access - such as delimitations, floors with cement ... The development of elements that were previously in a more or less natural state. Converted into aesthetic elements, like pure forms, they remind us more of elements of theme parks than of their originals.
In addition, the tendency is to make a punctual recovery, of some of the affected elements, fixes some that will pass to history, and eliminates others like houses and farmhouses, although they have a social, cultural and historical value.
Others cannot even be recovered, as is the case with the cave of the Segre, of Vilaplana or Espluga de los Gitanos, an old and important prehistoric shelter to be touched from the river, today under the waters.
The reservoir creates fissures, as we can see, even before its existence. The certainty of its construction sentences the affected places to a permanent paralysis, which will end up with the water rising. As the houses of the affected populations are stopped by time, they live the last years of their lives in deep agony, waiting for their definitive disappearance. Houses and towns are suspended in time. In the case of Rialb, photographs from the year 2000 demonstrate this reality, populations that seem to be anchored in the sixties. An inhabitant of the area said: "We haven't done anything in the houses for a long time".
Sometimes they also serve to physically and psychologically separate territories. Cases such as Lleida and Huesca, under the barrier of the reservoirs - Santa Ana, Canelles ... - which delimit and separate artificially and / or naturally both territories.
It is also necessary to reflect on how these serve to create peripheral territories at the same time, their construction supposes the desertification of the affected territory, its oblivion, as has happened with the areas affected by the Santa Ana or Canelles reservoirs. In these cases there is the advent of a desert area, forgotten, depressed, even today. In this sense, to approach Tragó de Noguera, for example, is to do so in a landscape of deep solitude, as if the drama of its disappearance were still beating among ancient crops and wastelands. Abandonment, which is currently being appeased through the temporary employment of those who have remained, who are trying to recover the territory through rural tourism. As if it were a single formula for territorial recovery, rural tourism has been set up to homogenise not only the territories affected by reservoirs but also any low or high mountain areas. The lack of imagination, and a galloping economic zeal seems to be like a barrier that makes it impossible to think of other formulas of more social recovery, as for example through policies to facilitate the arrival of new people to the population, - of a scarce and aged native population that needs the renovation - with houses subsidized by the city councils, deputations ... or the possibility of work, or schooling for newly arrived children.
Reservoirs and water transfers are treated by politicians as generators of wealth. In a model of pharaonic architectural and engineering mega-projects Of how they represent their magnanimous power, in the way that the great pharaonic constructions or Roman triumphal arches did in antiquity. Structures moved by complex economic and political interests, that very often devastate everything they find in their way, in favor of a supposed modernity, desired progress and benefit for all, forgetting their effect on their inhabitants, and their rivers . Much has been said about the need for a major shift in water policy, to generate alternatives for each new project, to see its necessity and validity. There are many demonstrations against dams and the echo of the human drama in the media. In the seventies and eighties, for example, under graffiti on facades or banners, "No the Rialb reservoir" was very much in evidence. The population was very resistant. In fact, it is one of the last ones still projected from Franco's hydraulic policies.
Well all this should make us think about what we want, if we live in this supposed "modernity" and how far we are willing to go to preserve it. It is clear that a revision of the concept of modernity and progress is urgently needed, and whether or not we could do without this type of mega-project ... Perhaps we could generate a policy of reducing water consumption and replace them with more human-scale structures.
Olga Olivera-Tabeni. Text redrafted in June 2019, from a 2017 text.
Olga Olivera-Tabeni. Text refet el juny del 2019, a partir d’un text del 2017.