Last May in Lorca, in the Spanish region of Murcia, a double earthquake left nine people dead and 300 injured, out of a population of 90,000. It also caused a huge amount of damage and more than 1,100 homes had to be demolished.
Lorca is now being rebuilt but times are hard and progress is not as rapid as everyone would like. There is also an additional challenge: sustainable development.
The city decided to participate in the EU Smart Cities project, which includes places undertaking large rebuilding works based on technology, innovation and sustainability. The aim is to take advantage of the catastrophe in a positive way.
But sustainable development is not confined to homes. It is also applied to public institutions. After the earthquake 11 out of the 44 educational establishments within the city had to close, and four still have not re-opened. While repairing these centres, the architects have tried to improve energy efficiency.
The city also has a valuable cultural heritage which was damaged but which is important for Lorca’s tourist industry.
All 14 churches also had to close. Rebuilding them is important because of the historical and social value. The all play an important role in Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter but also attract 200,000 visitors a year.
Another essential part of Lorca’s heritage is the castle. The project architect prefers to recycle materials and uses traditional building methods, as a contribution to “sustainable development”.
Lorca is not just counting on its past. It is also looking to the future, with projects linked to sustainable development. The Urban Waste Treatment Centre receives 200 tonnes a day. They recycle plastic and paper, but soon will be able to recycle even more materials.
Looking even further ahead, Lorca is planning the biggest solar plant in the world. It is in a high solar radiation area, similar to north Africa. The project aims to build on this, by installing 1.200 Ha of solar panels. Work should start in 2013, and they hope to produce enough electricity to supply 200,000 homes, saving 570,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. They also plan for it to be cheaper than coal or oil.
Investing in sustainable development does not always need a lot of money. The NGO ‘Lorca Biciudad‘ has more than 200 members, who aim to encourage people in Lorca to use bicycles more, as an easy and cheap way to protect the environment.