Industrial Risk Communication and Conflict Mitigation Strategies.
Lombardy is one of the most densely populated and industrialized regions in Europe, where nearly 280 Seveso sites are located. The issue of risk communication, as set by the European Seveso Directive is therefore of high relevance in this region. Nevertheless, the Lombardy Region Authorities consider that the implementation of the Directive’s provisions is too weak. Therefore, the Lombardy Region financed an exploratory research in November 2009 and all the research activities ended in February 2011. (Éupolis Lombardia 2011). The research was conducted in order to estimate the existing gaps in risk communication, the subsequent conflicts and to evaluate how to improve the participation of the population in the emergency preparedness activities. The main goal of the project was to improve the communication of risk to the population exposed to industrial risks, hence to mitigate the related social conflict on the basis of an institutional learning process involving governmental bodies industrial organizations and the population. The project was supported by a multidisciplinary research group, which investigated the following aspects:
- the regional activities regarding the risk communication at local level;
- the nature and status of the main stakeholders groups’ perception of the industrial risks and the existing conflicts, collected through interviews and groups’ discussions;
- the analysis of the gaps and ways of improvement related to an effective strategy of communication between industry, population and emergency services. A forum involving all the institutional stakeholders was set to discuss this issue.
The paper reports the main results of the research and illustrates the potential strategies to improve the risk communication and the population participation and preparedness for the Lombardy Region. The results showed that the level of risk perception of the population in Lombardy is still too low to define a program of communication without having considered in more detail the mode of involvement of the population. In a context characterized by a distorted perception of risk, the low risk perception could be a sensitive issue that may impend the start of the communication process because it could generate anxiety, alarmism or unnecessary conflicts. Nevertheless, the experiments carried out showed that the population potentially exposed to the industrial risks, if properly involved, shows particular interest in issues related to prevention and self-protection. According to the main results of research project, the involvement of population into a dedicated programme on risk communication should not present a significant concern and the conflict between the industries and the population does not appear to be a particular obstacle to risk communication. On the contrary it was shown that collaboration could be beneficial for all the stakeholders while the most significant limitation to this process, is the low public perception of the problem.
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