It is not only rivers and streams that are being salvaged from their underworldly existence (https://blog.granadalabella.eu/?p=110, dated 19/7); canals, too, are being resuscitated and regenerated, nowhere more so than in fair England, where they have given rise to a popular slow-pace leisure industry: barge holidays, gliding along predictable rural waterways at a leisurely 4kph.

The Guardian chooses to report in particular (25/7/2019) on the achievements of the Lapal Canal project. Here a three-mile stretch of the 200-year-old Dudley No 2 canal (West Midlands) is being converted from what was a derelict and abandoned industrial waterway into a desirable upmarket urban living and leisure space. It is one of at least 80 canal renaissance projects being undertaken in the UK at the present moment. The project, enthuses the Guardian’s reporter, John Vidal, which will link the suburbs of California and Selly Oak, could be a catalyst for the economic and ecological renaissance of a large area of south Birmingham.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/jul/25/the-canal-revolution-how-waterways-reveal-the-truth-about-modern-britain

 We know that this depicted transformation of canals in the UK is part of a worldwide phenomenon. We know that in Seoul, for example, the renovation of the Cheonggyecheon Stream (see blog ?p=110 op cit) transformed what was effectively an old sewerage ditch covered by a gigantic elevated highway into a pleasant urban environment with clean water, plants, wildlife and attractive landscaping. The regeneration of such waterways was unimaginable, say, 50 years ago, when the car economy still reigned supreme.

But just as decisions about the use or non-use of waterways shaped the way our cities developed in the 19th and 20th centuries, they are now shaping urban renewal today.

So, returning to our River Darro: Why should it not be released from its gloomy underground passage under Reyes Católicos Street to which it was condemned at the end of the 19th century? And, come to that, why shouldn’t it be further ‘daylighted’  all the way from Puerta Royal to the Plaza del Humilladero, where it joins the mainstream of the River Genil (that flows down from the snow to the wheat), in front of the Mercadona that once was Electrodomésticos (household appliances) Sánchez?

The restoration of the canals in the 1950s and 60s in England, let’s take note, was the result of a consistent and principled act of defiance by a small number of people in the face of authorities which were fully compliant with the demands of the car industry and had no time or money to bother with quaint old-fashioned waterways.

This was the way it was for Granada until well into the 21st century. The motor car decisively shaped the city centre as it is today, in spite of counter-measures undertaken over the last couple of decades. So, what will it take to open up the course of the River Darro, from Plaza Santa Ana all the way down to where it joins the River Genil? – A similarly consistent act of defiance in the face of reluctant authorities, for sure.

In challenging the until-now unquestioned and unquestionable city-centre status quo, the urban development of Granada could take a decisive turn from the traffic-choked and air polluted nucleus that we know today to a green and pedestrian-friendly urban environment that could notably improve the quality of city life.

It is a development that, if allowed, property developers will not be slow to take full advantage of, as average citizens like you and me are banished to the outer suburbs and dormitory towns that surround the provincial capital, and the gentrified city centre will be the stalking grounds of the well-off, following the pattern of other urban restoration schemes.

the renovation of the Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul (TwilightShow/Getty Images)
Below the asphalt, the River Darro flows down to the River Genil
The Acera del Darro in the 1930s
the unromantic rendez-vous of the rivers Darro and Genil
the River Darro, 19th Century, as it approaches the Genil (the cypress trees belonged to the Colegio Escalapios on the other side of the Genil)