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In Italy, Naples residents rise up against rubbish crisis

by Staff Writers
Naples, Italy (AFP) May 18, 2008
Residents of Naples, fed up with the stench from months of uncollected rubbish, on Sunday used the waste to barricade streets in protest at the long-running crisis.

For days running, residents of the southern Italian city have set scores of stinking rubbish heaps alight, some throwing stones at firefighters called out to deal with the blazes, often under police escort.

Firefighters said they put out 84 blazes overnight.

Traffic is impeded by mountains of rubbish pushed into the streets by protesters as rising temperatures aggravate the stench.

New Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was to hold his right-wing government's first cabinet meeting on Wednesday in Naples to underscore an election campaign pledge to bury the continuing "scandal."

Some 6,000 tonnes of household rubbish litter the streets of the city, and another 50,000 tonnes line the roads of the Campania region surrounding Naples, according to the latest figures, a product of the dysfunctional waste collection system.

Earlier this month, the European Commission launched legal action against Italy before an EU court over its failure to tackle the crisis, which has dragged on for the last 14 years.

Although the previous government appointed a waste management pointman to tackle the problem -- former police chief Gianni De Gennaro -- the commission said that authorities have failed to come up with convincing plans that would lead to a long-term solution.

Many landfills in Campania are controlled by the region's Camorra mafia, which lines its pockets by subverting waste-handling procedures and shipping in industrial waste from the north.

Emergency plans adopted in late January by the outgoing centre-left government of Romano Prodi failed to resolve chronic backlogs at waste treatment centres, Italian press reports said.

Of Campania's 64 towns and cities, 22 failed to implement trash-sorting directives within the allotted time.

On Saturday they fell under De Gennaro's direct administration.

By law, rubbish that is not sorted cannot be dumped at the few landfills that still have space in Campania.

Courts routinely bar local authorities from reopening dumps because they are too close to residential areas amid an uncontrolled property development boom in the region.

In other cases, environmental groups or neighbourhood associations have opposed, sometimes by force, the reopening of old landfills or plans to build new incinerators.

Shipping waste out by train to German treatment plants or by boat to other Italian regions has not made enough of a dent in the backlog.

Authorities accuse the Camorra of undermining efforts to resolve the crisis, one of several issues that helped Berlusconi to power in mid-April elections.

News reports on Sunday said Berlusconi would likely use the army to confront the situation and that future dumping sites would remain secret to prevent protests.

earlier related report
Firefighters battle Naples rubbish blazes
Naples firefighters tackled scores of burning rubbish piles as the Italian city organised special garbage trains to Germany on Monday to alleviate its waste crisis.

Tens of thousands of tonnes of waste have piled up since late last year as a 14-year problem over a lack of incinerators reaches a new peak.

During the night, firefighters in the southern city reported 90 separate fires, most started by angry inhabitants as summer heat intensifies the stench from the decomposing rubbish.

Silvio Berlusconi's new government is to announce new measures to deal with the crisis at a special cabinet meeting in the city on Wednesday.

"Every six to seven minutes one of our emergency vehicles sets off with its sirens screaming," local fire commander Ugo Bonessio told La Repubblica newspaper.

The company in charge of collecting Naples' rubbish, l'Asia, promised Monday to start special collections, saying there was currently 3,500 tonnes of uncollected rubbish in the city, compared with more than 5,000 tonnes on Saturday.

"Trains loaded with waste should be leaving today for Germany," Asia president Pasquale Losa told ANSA news agency.

Around 100,000 tonnes of waste was to exported to Germany for disposal.

In addition to the 5,000 tonnes of waste still littering Naples, there are tens of thousands of refuse pile along roads in the Campania region.

Toxins believed to be seeping into the soil from this waste caused a health scare earlier this year when the region's prized buffalo mozzarella cheese was found to containg raised toxin levels.

The combination of a lack of incinerators and full-to-capacity landfill sites have combined over the past decade to become a major national issue.

La Republicca called on Berlusconi to designate around a dozen sites in Campania for landfills, over the heads of any complaints from local politicians.

"We must not hesitate to impose these new sites on municipal mayors," it declared.

The government must also reserve the right to draft in the army to help in the crisis, it added -- a measure already taken by Berlusconi's predecessor as prime minister, Romano Prodi.

Soldiers have already helped out clearing buildings such as schools in recent days.

"The escalation in rat colonies and the risk of transmission of diseases like leptospirosis (transmitted through the urine of infected rodents)," has created a "dramatic" health risk, president of the Naples College of Physicians, Giuseppe Scalera, warned on Sunday.

The European Commission this month launched legal action against Italy before an EU court over its failure to tackle the crisis.

Although the previous government appointed a waste management pointman to tackle the problem -- former police chief Gianni De Gennaro -- the commission said authorities have failed to come up with convincing plans that would lead to a long-term solution.

Many landfills in Campania are controlled by the Camorra mafia, which is believed to illegally ship in industrial waste from the north for landfill disposal, and oppose new incinerators.

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NOAA Reports Coastal Waters Show Decline In Contaminants
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