Sociología de la regulación sobre riesgos socioambientales Análisis de dos estudios de caso en la región de La Araucanía, Chile

Arturo Vallejos-Romero, Felipe Sáez-Ardura, Alex Boso-Gaspar, Pablo Aznar-Crespo, Antonio Aledo Tur


El artículo analizar sociológicamente los régimenes de riesgo socioambiental de la contaminación atmosférica y la fauna urbana rural de perros/gatos en la Región de La Araucanía (Chile), desde el Enfoque de Regulación de Riesgos. Con una metodología cualitativa, se realiza un análisis de contenido de los principales instrumentos legales y reglamentarios a nivel nacional, regional y comunal. Se evidencia la inexistencia de una definición y políticas de riesgo, una escasa reflexividad organizacional y procedimientos regulatorios disonantes, que no previenen, sino gestionan conflictos y consecuencias, según se trate de riesgos tecnológicos o socioculturales.

Empirical analyses on risk regulation show insufficiencies in the characterisation of risk domains in Chile, which has hindered progress and contributions to environmental regulation, straining management and intervention due to the increasing generation of socio-environmental problems and conflicts.

Faced with this problem, the Risk Regulation Approach (RRA) provides a set of institutional processes that allows for an applied framework to account for the risks that society generates, and with this, to observe risk regulation in Chile.

Having proposed the problem and the characteristics of an approach to risk regulation for Chile, an analysis of two socio-environmental risk domains in the Araucanía Region (RLA, Chile) is presented: urban air pollution from household use of firewood (CU) and regulation of urban/rural canine/feline wildlife (FU/R).


The research is of a qualitative-descriptive type, and through two case studies, it accounted for two domains (CU and FU/R) considered as sub-units that allow for a deeper understanding of phenomenon, taking the RLA as the geographical context. The legal and regulatory texts analysed are (1) Decrees 12/11, 2/13 and 39/13 (national), (2) the Plan de Descontaminación Atmosférica Temuco/P. Las Casas (PDA, regional and local) for the case of the CU. For the FU/R we analysed (1) Law 21.020 (national), (2) the Programme Guide “Responsible Pet Ownership” (regional) and (3) the Municipal Ordinance N° 003 (local).

The stages of the analysis were two: in the first stage, categorical content analysis was used, in which the content of the texts was interpreted by coding/identifying themes-patterns, organising the material by means of a list of codes that could be grouped according to internal meaning. In the second, an analysis was carried out for each dimension of the selected domain, according to the RRA, establishing categories of meaning derived from the set of codes in the documents. This modality, typical of the RRA, made it possible to establish a simple comparative relationship between the two cases, developing the identification of the functioning of these domains through an analysis of the three (3) control components of the regulatory system, according to how they are presented in the six (6) dimensions of the regimes.

For the above, levels were defined that graduated the singularity of both cases by component and dimension: a “high” level, a “médium” level and a “low” level. These were established according to three categorical criteria identified at the end of the first stage of the analysis, according to whether codes and categories were found with “presence” (high level), with “relative presence” (medium level) and with “absence” (low level), in each of the aspects studied. Thus, a descriptive and relational analysis was established, which made it possible to identify concordances and divergences between the study domains, on the basis of the documentation analysed.


In the CU, tolerance values and scientifically established limits are determined for the fine (MP2.5) and coarse (MP10) pollution fraction (Decree 12/11: art.2), proceeding to epidemiological control to avoid health risks and developing key regulations for the communes of Temuco/Padre Las Casas, such as the declaration of the Saturated Zone and the PDA regulations. This recognises the conurbation as an area saturated by contamination derived from the domestic use of wet firewood, which can move from a saturated zone to a latent zone depending on the scientific results obtained over a period of time (Decree 39/13: art.2).

The regulatory content shows that the size has tolerance magnitudes treated on scientific records, establishing criteria based on international parameters, which seeks to modify behaviours based on the warning of the seriousness of these magnitudes for people's health (Decree 12/11). The structure shows public and private actors with different levels of pre/post-event administration (PDA, 2015), where one part of this structure modifies the behaviour of the other, with a regional political centre of regulation, of a normative rather than discretionary, where sanctions are guided by the thresholds of exceeding the norm (PDA, 2015).

In the FU/R, Law 21.020 (art.1) proposes actions for responsible pet ownership, aimed at improving public health through a series of initiatives oriented towards the good treatment of animals (Law 21.020: art. 3 and 5). Its regional implementation is the Responsible Pet Ownership Programme (PTRAC), implemented between the Undersecretariat for Regional Development (SUBDERE) and the municipalities, through Ordinances (Ordinance 003 in the case of Temuco, the regional centre and most populated city of the RLA), a highly normative and prohibitive instrument, with a strong socio-health emphasis (Ordinance 003: art. 1-2), given which security institutions, the judiciary and municipalities appear in the legal field.

The regulatory context shows a hardly quantifiable risk of social origin, without explicit risk thresholds, seeking to model public attitudes/preferences on the basis of scientific data (veterinary knowledge) and social data (responsible ownership), but without evidence of robust processes of information gathering to support the regulatory work; so it is a dissuasive method regime through awareness raising (PTRAC, Law 21.020), combined with normative sanctions (Ordinance 003). There is a presence of diverse groups, but this does not necessarily imply their incidence in the definition of risk tolerance parameters.

The regulatory content presents a regime that does not present clear magnitudes of risk tolerance, with few references to previous records of scientific information, so that global parameters for evaluating the regulation are not made explicit (Law 21.020, PTRAC, Ordinance 003). In the structure, there is a communal (municipality) and regional (SUBDERE) regulatory centre, which defines an operational style based on practical agreements where information is used more pragmatically than dogmatically, articulating regulation through institutional networks of intermediate complexity (PTRAC, Law 21.020).


The analysis showed that, in a domain of socio-cultural origin, there are no mechanisms to measure/generate scientific information on compliance with regulatory purposes/objectives. This is not the case of domain of technological origin, where there are defined thresholds and resources to produce scientific information and constant monitoring for compliance.

These insufficiencies generate the inexistence of objective parameters on risk of socio-cultural origin, making regulation more difficult as they are more normative-punitive regimes than those originated to regulate risks associated with technological development. This is contradictory and shows inconsistencies, since the official versions affirm that CU is a risk whose consequences for health are more serious than those generated by FU/R.

Finally, there are no explicit references to the definition of risk on the part of the institutions associated with regulation, which reveals a lack of reflexivity on the part of the institutions to deal with socio-environmental risks according to global standards, where the regulatory institutions are not conceived as the origin of the risks, since the procedures established for regulation are dissonant with the reality that they are trying to control.

© Revista de estudios regionales 2014 Universidades Públicas de Andalucía