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Multilevel Power Relations and Planning Conflicts in a ‘Land of Exception’: The Case of the Sughereta di Niscemi Reserve in Sicily

  • Autori: Lo Piccolo, Francesco; Schilleci, Filippo; Todaro, Vincenzo
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2019
  • Tipologia: Capitolo o Saggio (Capitolo o saggio)
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This article aims to investigate how the asymmetrical (political and economic) power relations can influence the effectiveness of planning systems at the local governance level, producing conflicting forms between land transformation and protection of natural interest sites. The article demonstrates how this condition can generate severe forms of environmental and social injustice through the case study of the M.U.O.S. of Niscemi (Mobile User Objective System). M.U.O.S. of Niscemi is a ground station for military communications satellite system, constructed by the United States Navy (Department of Defense) in Zone B of the natural reserve of "Sughereta di Niscemi" (the most relevant relict of the oak forests that once covered central-southern Sicily). The construction of the M.U.O.S. of Niscemi started in February 2008 without the traditional authorizations and the Environmental Impact Assessment (submitted late, in the summer of the same year). It did not pay any respect for the natural heritage of the reserve and the local laws for environment and landscape, through to the procedure of the "conference of services". This italian procedural model for administrative simplification has the objective of speeding up administrative procedures, especially when dealing with potential international or national funding (and interests), yet it is also a strategic tool to: • replace the traditional authorizations from the single public institutions; • sidestep the participation of the local community; • modify (zoning modifications) the approved plans through “automatic variation” of the planning instruments. These conditions involve a progressive loss of legitimacy of modern deliberative democracies. In our case the procedure caused protests of local associations "NoMUOS" related to the health risks and environmental damage due to radio waves in densely populated areas. In particular, local associations fighted for the revocation of authorisation to the construction and operation of the system. The article discusses the cause-effect relationship between international and national policies and planning instruments at local governance level, highlighting that soil transformations through short administrative procedures can produce forms of inequality and injustice. It contributes to the critical discussion on the role of political on the evolution (and involution) of governance and planning practices, exploring paradigms and models, systems and tools, as well as the main theoretical implications related to the ethical challenges and dilemma of planning in marginal contexts, where issues of social justice, sustainable development, and suspension of norms are strictly intertwined.