A Thousand Basins

A social monitoring platform for the Matanza-Riachuelo river basin complex scenario

“In June of 2008, the Nation’s Supreme Court of Justice sentenced the national State and the City of Buenos Aires and Province of Buenos Aires’ governments to recompose the existing environmental damage in the Matanza-Riachuelo river basin, and to guarantee the betterment of the affected populations’ life quality.
Said sentence contains a set of mandates that must be mandatorily accomplished by the sentenced States, and at the same time it imposes the unprecedented obligation to partake in a process of accountability, the main axis of which is precisely conformed by the requirement to inform everything related with the advancement and the situation of the Matanza-Riachuelo. […]
In the same way in the ruling of July 8th 2008, the Supreme Court established a series of measures directed to the State producing and spreading information, forcing the ACUMAR (Authority of the Matanza-Riachuelo Basin) to adopt a system of public information that presents updated and detailed data in a clear, accessible and concentrated manner for the general publicly.”

Andrés Napoli, Riachuelo Director of FARN (Environment and Natural Resources Foundation), and its representative in the Collegiate Body. FARN Report, 2012. 

The Matanza-Riachuelo basin is today one of the most currently unfavored places of the City of Buenos Aires and the provincial conurban, but it is also a place-process that can lead a new road for the coexistence of complex environments, as are contemporary urban proliferation, basin emergencies and other political ecologies. 

This junction represents not only a problem, but a challenge and an opportunity. The urgency of composing in an inhabitable world environmental aspects (contamination and the transformation of production processes), social problems (the growing gap between rich and poor, the lack of innovative public policy to give housing and insertion to a growing part of of the population), political forms (jurisdictional overlap problems, inadequate systems of representation) and the role of technology (how to direct the sciences and technologies for the promotion of a more common world) mean that in the future of the basin are staked a possible urban ecology and environmental democracy model aand not only the reparation of the inflicted damages.

In this context, during the year 2010 and as part of FARN’s “Social Monitoring of the Matanza-Riachuelo Basin” project, GarageLab along with m7red, with the support of organizations that make the Matanza-Riachuelo Space (EMR) and the European Union’s funding, elaborated and put into motion the website www.quepasariachuelo.org.ar (“Que Pasa Riachuelo?”, also known as QPR or “What’s happening Riachuelo?”). It was an online monitoring platform based in public data, the finality of which was to make visible some of the problems that exist in the territorial space of the Matanza-Riachuelo basin and that affect the quality of life of the population that lives in it. 

This project began with the “Public Data and Open Government” hackathon, in which a process of document geolocation and Matanza-Riachuelo basin topic visualization process took place, with the organization of GarageLab and the University of San Andrés (UdeSA), in October 2010. The project’s long term objective was to create a platform that could integrate different types of information and its diverse producers through a multiple strategy: 

  1. Connecting information from different localities, and these with public data.
  2. Generation information in the territory itself and making it connectable and reusable. 
  3. Facilitating and discovering the “common affairs” of the basin’s urban agenda.
  4. Visualizing the relationship of local information with the different organizational State levels, that is to say, monitoring and validating news production in both ways: from the State to the citizenry, and from the citizenry to the State. 

The Basin Social Monitoring Platform allowed to create a link between affected neighbors, involved organizations and state organisms in the framing of the Integral Environmental Sanitation Plan. This link allowed a follow-through of the Plan through the coproduction of territorial information, the composition of public documents and the writing and structuring of public information. 

This type of journalism might be understood as a sort of performative geography that redesigns the basin through data flows and connections possible thanks to a basin glocalization strategy. In a local interrelationship level it connects localities affected by the emergency with each other, and in a glocal (global and local) level, it delineates the basin’s global ecology between localities.

The platform, the prototype of which was presented before the FARN in December 2010, combined information technology of the so-called “new media»: Crowdsourcing, social media percolation, local journalism, semantization and public data through m7red’s complex scenario methodology. In this context, the application of the methodology meant the translation between territorial actors and the assembly of problems and technological and territorial actors through hackathons.

The website continued development from March to December 2011, month in which it was launched to the public. During the year there were territorial and hydric basin exploration rounds, territorial mapping workshops with experts and neighbors, dumpster monitorings, satellite and drone sensings, hackathons and more. In these sessions participated organizations such as AVINA, FARN, The Faculty of Agronomy, the Lomas de Zamora Hydric Forum, ACUMAR, the CELS (Center for Legal and Social Studies), Basurales and many more. The multiple data gathering, processing and organization approaches started to generate movements in public organisms, the liberation of data, and to configure a mapping structure that made common topics appear. The results were presented to the Collegiate Body, and were composed of videos, hypotheses, actor maps and more, and they formed a public data collaboration and integration system.

In 2013 the website changed domain, locating itself in qpr2.com.ar. In this year the project was invited to participate in Mozfest, Mozilla’s technological conference. Mauricio Corbalán traveled as a representative and, besides getting to know other innovative ideas, presented the reach of the Basin Social Monitoring Platform in a work session (LearningLab) about the Basin Social Monitoring.

In 2018 m7red published the ebook Mil Cuencas (Thousand Basins), a collection of articles written for the Mancilla, a Buenos Aires literary magazine focused on the relationship between landscape, politics and literature. As a methodology, each article/chapter is a situated conversation on a particular basin. Each chapter describes the interlacing between ecology and politics in that basin, complex scenarios where territories emerge by the descriptions of multiple actors operating at different scales, engaged in several stories and going through many conflicts in order to inhabit them.


  • A project designed for FARN, Fundación Ciudad and FOPEA (Argentine Journalism Forum) in the context of a European Union open call. Possible thanks to the association between GarageLab and FARN. Funding: AVINA, CELS. Idea, data gathering, UI/UX and territorial work: Mauricio Corbalán and Pío Torroja (m7red). GarageLab development team: Damián Janowsky (Development and visualization), Eduardo Mercovich (UI/UX), Daró Wainer (General Coordination). 
  • Presenters at Mozfest, London, England, October 25th to 27th, 2013.
  • Authors of Mil Cuencas, compilatory ebook self published by m7red, 2018.