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Regional Government distinguishes 44 parish councils with Excellence Award

Regional Government distinguishes 44 parish councils with Excellence Award

May 15, 2024

The Regional Secretary for the Environment and Climate Action, Alonso Miguel, distinguished this Tuesday 44 Azorean parish councils that have stood out for their performance and dedication to preserving the environment, during a ceremony held, for the first time, in Vila do Porto, Santa Maria Island.

Alonso Miguel, who presided over the Excellence Awards presentation under the "ECO-Parish" programme, pointed out that "this programme represents a fundamental tool of cooperation between the Regional Government and parish councils. It aims to acknowledge and distinguish the efforts of parishes and their populations in the clean-up, removal and proper disposal of waste disposed of in their territories, including waterlines and the coastline, as well as to encourage the participation of populations in awareness-raising and environmental education actions."

Alonso Miguel praised the parish councils, which, "due to their proximity to the local population and in-depth knowledge of their respective territories, are strategic partners and play a central role, often with scarce resources, in the daunting challenge of preserving the environment."

"The actions carried out by the 135 parishes participating in the 2023 edition of “ECO-Parish” led to the removal of approximately 867 tonnes of waste abandoned in public spaces, ensuring the monitoring and cleaning of about 241 kilometres of waterlines and more than 190 kilometres of coastline. They also included 535 environmental awareness and education actions, representing an increase of 32% compared to 2022," he continued.

The government official pointed out that the results "reflect a very positive evolution in environmental awareness and public participation in environmental matters, which are fundamental aspects for changing behaviour and for a paradigm shift towards sustainable development."

Alonso Miguel stated that, given the importance of the "ECO-Parish" programme, the Government has been looking for solutions to further improve its operation and an increasingly "firm commitment to increase the financial investment for the programme."

The Regional Secretary explained that "all regional parish councils were heard on the operation of the programme" back in 2022 with a view to improving it and, based on the contributions made and the experience acquired, "significant improvements have been made to the programme's regulations, bringing them even closer to the needs of parishes." These changes meant that, in the 2023 edition, the waste collected and delivered selectively to a licensed operator, depending on its type and quantity, would now be recovered, ‘thus encouraging the selective waste collection." Furthermore, the cash prize for the excellence award has doubled from 500 Euros to 1,000 Euros.

Alonso Miguel also pointed out that ‘there was an important increase in the financial allocation under the “ECO-Parish” programme in 2023, with 550 thousand Euros allocated for this purpose, which was, at the time, the largest amount ever included in the Regional Annual Plan since the implementation of the programme."

"Also in 2023, 138 pieces of equipment for the maintenance of public spaces were delivered to all the parish councils in the Azores that had participated in the 2022 edition. This represented the fulfilment of another commitment I made to our parish mayors, which resulted in the distribution of 50 hedge trimmers, 17 brushcutters and 71 electric chainsaws, according to the preference and needs of each of the 138 participating parish councils," an investment exceeding 87 thousand Euros," he said.

Alonso Miguel mentioned that, although a considerable investment in the programme has been secured for 2023, a historic high, "the fact is that this amount is still insufficient for the needs and costs incurred by parish councils in this regard."

"For this reason, we have decided to go further and increase the amount allocated to the "ECO-Parish" programme once again, and quite significantly, in response to the wishes of our mayors," he added.

Accordingly, "we have committed to increase this amount to one million Euros by 2024, representing an increase of about 82% over the amount allocated last year."

"We believe this financial increase will be a fundamental contribution to decisively empower and support parish councils so that they can firmly tackle the enormous challenges involved in cleaning and maintaining public spaces, protecting people and property, and preserving our environmental heritage," he stressed, addressing the mayors present.

According to Alonso Miguel, the prizes of excellence awarded, corresponding to an investment of 44 thousand Euros, are "a fair recognition of the efforts made by each of the award-winning parishes and the commitment dedicated to this cause by their respective populations, in addition to showing gratitude and respect for the collective work that has been carried out."

As part of the event, the Regional Secretariat for the Environment and Climate Action also presented the new logo for the "ECO-Village" programme in the presence of the representatives of the regional parishes of excellence, developed with the aim of modernising and adapting its image to the new regulations.

In 2023, 44 parishes from eight islands of the archipelago were distinguished with the Excellence Award, six more than in 2022: Fajã Grande and Lajedo, Flores Island; Praia do Norte, Ribeirinha, Capelo, Praia do Almoxarife, Salão, Pedro Miguel and Angústias, Faial Island; Rosais, São Jorge Island; Prainha, Piedade, Calheta de Nesquim and Candelária, Pico Island; Santa Cruz da Graciosa and São Mateus, Graciosa Island; Raminho, Doze Ribeiras, Vila de São Sebastião, São Bartolomeu de Regatos, São Mateus da Calheta, Feteira, São Bento, Santa Bárbara, Ribeirinha, Vila do Porto Judeu, São Brás, Agualva, Fontinhas, Fonte do Bastardo, Vila das Lajes, Vila Nova and Porto Martins, Terceira Island; Relva, Conceição, Ribeirinha, Maia, Calhetas, Água de Pau, Ribeira Chã, Ribeira Seca, Santana and Achadinha, São Miguel Island; and Santo Espírito, Santa Maria Island.

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