Bridging the regional scale and local contexts in the pursuit of sustainable interventions : Three cases along the Mapocho River in Santiago, Chile

University essay from KTH/Hållbar utveckling, miljövetenskap och teknik

Abstract: Alike many urban rivers, the Mapocho River in Santiago withstands enormous pressures from urban development. In the last decades there has been an increasing interest in the river, opening an opportunity to intervene its riparian areas where land is still available. But there is also the threat that future interventions will continue to be treated in isolation and respond to sectorial interests, hindering the river’s potential in the long run. With this in mind, the research aims to explore a way of understanding local contexts that takes into account both regional and local realities, providing a more holistic basis over which sustainable local interventions could take place in the future. Resilience theory is used as a conceptual framework to understand sustainability in its broad sense, aim at sustainability transformations through cross-scale interactions, and pay attention to the way in which social-ecological dimensions interact. Focusing on three local sites along the river, the analysis first explores priority ecosystem services from a regional perspective and then focuses on dimensions that become apparent at the local scale through site observations. This results in the proposition of a framework that explicitly links dimensions across scales by defining the way in which they interact to put forward what is possible and desirable in the current scenario. Within this interplay, the regional scale determines the influential capacity of the local site in question to alleviate regional sustainability challenges, while providing the relevance and urgency of specific ecosystem services to emerge. The local scale frames the spatial and socio-cultural feasibility to intervene the site, putting forward physical and value dimensions. The analysis of interactions highlights relevant linkages and conflicts that could inform and guide sustainable interventions at the local scale. Findings suggest that a specific ES can sometimes serve as a gateway to pursue synergicefforts between diverging interests, that physical dimensions like spatial delimitation and accessibility can play a key role, and that the consideration of value dimensions can help handle inevitable trade-offs.

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