MADRID – It was one of the most talked-about projects ahead of this year’s local and regional elections in Madrid: a huge vertical garden with 6,600 plants in the Chamberí district. But just four months after its hasty opening, the garden is brown.
The green wonder with a length of 90 metres has serious flaws, and not just a few. The project was part of a larger renovation of Parque Santander. The residents of Chamberí would get a new green zone. However, the vertical garden was not just an ecological statement. It was simultaneously a move by the Partido Popular and regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso to win votes, writes the newspaper El Diario. On the eve of the elections, Ayuso herself chose this place to take a walk. A subtle hint at her contribution to the project.
Ups and downs
What was briefly an example of green urban planning is now a barren collection of dried-out plants. Twitter/X user @Silvia33Dormin shows it here. The heat appears to have killed the project, but critics say the problem goes further. Residents and environmentalists say the neglect and lack of adequate irrigation are symptoms of “political haste”. The project was completed too quickly to make a splash before the elections.
Ayuso se monta un jardín vertical con 6.600 plantas solo para hacerse las fotos en las elecciones de mayo
En cuatro meses no queda nada del jardín de Chamberí pic.twitter.com/CYZdIqa3Cu
— silvia ♻️ (@Silvia33domin) September 8, 2023
It’s not just the garden that suffers; Other parts of the park also show defects. The running tracks are already in need of renovation and some sports facilities, including the hockey field and the beach volleyball court, are now closed. “It’s a shame and a waste of public money,” said Chiqui Esteban of the residents’ association Parque Sí en Chamberí.
According to the managers of the Canal de Isabel II, of which the garden is part, measures are being taken to repair the damage. There are plans to replace the dried-out plants and improve the irrigation system. But for many, this is a classic example of how political promises and a desired image clash with reality.
Vertical gardens M30
The council has previously come under fire for the vertical gardens that now cover the concrete walls of the M30 bypass. This is the busiest ring road in Spain with 1.1 million vehicles every day. 123,000 plants of 23 species were used for the green wall covering. These were supposed to reduce noise pollution and improve air quality in the area. Moreover, they would contribute to reducing the heat island effect in the city. All good intentions for which €30 million of public money was reserved.
However, experts considered this expense unnecessary. They stated that adding climbing plants would be a much cheaper alternative. They criticise the plant species chosen for the vertical gardens because they are not sustainable and require a lot of water. Moreover, maintaining the technological system would pose challenges. The installation of the vertical gardens is currently underway and data will be collected until 2024 to evaluate their effectiveness.