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It has become customary for the Superintendence of the Environment to inhibit itself from fulfilling its duties in terms of inspection. It will be remembered that in May 2019 different people had to go to the Supreme Court, which, by means of a sentence, ordered the Superintendency to supervise the polluting companies in Quintero – Puchuncaví.

In terms of noise, the Superintendency has established a similar practice, despite knowing the damage of inaction. The same Ministry published the exempt Resolution no. 587 of 2021, where it states “it is estimated that 3.7% of ischemic diseases [derrame cerebral] are attributable to environmental noise exposure. In Chile, 30,000 ischemic vascular accidents occur each year.

If 3.7% of them are caused by noise, the result is that the inhibition of the Superintendence of the Environment leads to 1,110 people suffering from this serious health problem, which can lead to disability and death. In particular, the communes of Antofagasta, Quinta Normal and Providencia exceed all permitted noise limits, permanently and, therefore, are the most dangerous in Chile in this regard, according to data from the same Superintendence of the Environment. In these three communes, as many people are disabled or die from noise as from homicides or criminal violence. It is surprising to find Providencia on the list, because it has managed to hide it with a campaign of greenwashingor green fraud, which consists of investing more in advertising to give a “green” image than in controlling noise pollution.

There is a certain cruelty in the omission of supervision by the Superintendence of the Environment, which uses the aforementioned decree with the purpose of legitimize what the standard seeks ban. It is a misuse of power, an administrative fault, and sometimes a criminal one. Cruelty, because even with the data from the same Ministry of the Environment, only in the great urban Santiago there are 1,440,000 people exposed to noise that is harmful to health. In regions, the proportion is similar. The Superintendency has contributed to the global uninhabitability of Chilean cities

The deviation of power by the Superintendency is carried out through two instruments. On the one hand, noise is regulated by Decree 38/2011 of the Ministry of the Environment, in the drafting of which, at the invitation of the then Director of CONAMA, Paulina Saball, included the participation of the main organizations whose affiliates are producers of noise: SOFOFA, the Chilean Chamber of Construction and Cemento Melón. All environmental or citizen organizations were excluded. The Decree that regulates noise in Chile was a tailor-made suit for those business organizations. On the other hand, the Superintendency unlimitedly and arbitrarily extends some individual exclusions provided for in that decree.

These political decisions mark the diversion of power on the part of the organizations destined to control noise. What came later was the omission of their duties regarding illegal noise, through the following mechanism:

First: after receiving a complaint, the Superintendency responds that, having analyzed the background, it does not have legal means to control, which is false. In addition, it is rarely established on site, so it does not verify the veracity of the fact, nor its characteristics, nor does it question the parties, so that it cannot verify whether the regulations are applied. For this reason, it does not carry out the alleged “analysis” of the complaint and the fictitious “investigation” takes place at the desk of the head of the area.

Second: the Superintendency excuses itself from acting citing article 5 of the aforementioned Decree, an article that establishes some exclusions. The main ones are the “own” noises of domestic life and “similar” noises made in this type of housing; and noise from the use of public space, such as pedestrian circulation, free fairs, street trade or other “similar”. Now, citing a norm is not founding an administrative act, less when it is cited in an impertinent way.

Third: the Superintendency, always from a desk, without having verified it, affirms that the noise denounced is among those excluded. How can you affirm it without having verified it? In this way, for the Superintendency, the noise of chainsaws forestry hired by one of the municipalities already identified, which, according to Conaf, emits 125 Db, that is, it causes pain and damages the ears, it is equivalent to the “use of public space”. In reality, this extremely dangerous machine prevents any use of public space, because circulation or enjoyment of that public space is suspended by the dangerous noise of that chainsaw. In fact, to make use of forestry chainsaws in urban areas, the municipality denounced before the Superintendence cuts off circulation and use of public space with barriers.

Fourth: The Superintendency extends specific exclusions included in the Decree to the use of industrial machines in the maintenance of gardens or parks, such as chainsaws or leaf blowers that emit noises of 110 Db (hearing damage); or that the use of a cango in an apartment repair (2000 blows per minute on concrete), is equivalent to gardening or “own” repair of a home. It is absolutely impossible for it to be “typical” of domestic life or a home to use machines whose noises force you to evacuate public and private spaces, and whose manuals require the use of safety clothing and personal protection.

None of this has to do with noise typical of a home or even an office, which are the oral coordination of work and teleworking, family conversation, the turning of the pages of the most appreciated book, the piano in a room, the trill of thrushes and thrushes. The Superintendency claims that some dangerous industrial machines are equivalent to a domestic juicer.

Neither Decree 38/2011, nor the proceedings of that rule, allow us to interpret that suspending, due to noise, domestic life in a home, access to a public space is typical of these or work in an office. The Superintendency and the Department of Noise, Light and Odors have diverted the legal power they have and act with pure arbitrariness. Domestic machines do not require safety clothing and protections.

The recently appointed Superintendent of the Environment, Marie Claude Plumer, has an important task: the control of the arbitrary extension of the exclusions provided for in Decree 38/2011, the axis of the diversion of power of the institution whose direction begins, must cease. As long as she continues with such arbitrariness, the body that she heads will continue to be The Superintendency that Kills.

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J. A. Allen

Author, blogger, freelance writer. Hater of spiders. Drinker of wine. Mother of hellions.

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