Citizen participation in check

This Friday, April 9, at 12 noon, the public hearing will begin on the Punilla highway. It will be done through a digital platform and will be broadcast live on YouTube.

“Below, we offer a google translate version of the original article in Spanish. This translation may not be accurate but serves as a general presentation of the article. For more accurate information, please switch to the Spanish version of the website. In addition, feel free to directly contact in English the person mentioned at the bottom of this article with regards to this topic”

Within the framework of the project “ALTERNATIVE ROUTE N ° 38 – VARIANT SECTION COSTA AZUL – LA CUMBRE” -punilla highway-, the environment secretary of the Province convened the corresponding public hearing. This stage is mandatory and prior to obtaining the environmental license.

Beyond the technical-environmental objections that the project deserves regarding its environmental impact, whose evaluation may imply the denial (or not) of the environmental license, the procedure selected by the provincial authority to the holding of the public hearing.

Is that the call itself established that to proceed with the registration, it was necessary to have “LEVEL 2” of Digital Citizen -CIDI- or, where appropriate, obtain it. Then, once this procedure was completed, it was possible to register through the “participation” service of said portal. Each and every one of these previous steps required having access to the internet, a device with a camera and even knowledge of technologies.

To participate in the public hearing – which is scheduled to begin today – you must have a device that allows you to access the corresponding “Google Meet” session. This adds other variables that make access to the procedure difficult, since the person interested in participating must not only have a good internet connection -due to the number of people present in the same session- but also with computer knowledge and a device appropriate technology. In addition, given the possible attendance of many people, the administration must adopt a good room management mechanism, trusting that the platform does not collapse due to the number of online participants.

All these requirements for the exercise of the right to public participation, in addition to finding their justification in the pandemic context, are based on the regulatory framework created by Provincial Law No. 10,618 and its Regulatory Decree No. 750/19 for the modernization of the administration. This regulation is what makes possible, based on Art. 8, the possibility of digital audiences.

The requirements designed by the provincial administration for the enjoyment of the right to citizen participation in environmental matters, generates certain questions regarding the validity of the procedure and the consequent administrative act. Participation must be open, inclusive, guaranteeing favorable conditions so that it can be adapted to the characteristics of the population, taking into special consideration those sectors that for one reason or another are in a situation of vulnerability. The way in which the digital public hearing has been implemented seems to move away from these guidelines, generating restrictions that have a direct impact on the enjoyment of the right of access to public participation in environmental matters, particularly of those people who do not have devices, knowledge and necessary infrastructure.

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