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Italian troops to help dig Naples out of rubbish crisis

by Staff Writers
Naples, Italy (AFP) Jan 8, 2008
Italian troops will be brought in to help clear away mountains of rubbish in Naples, Prime Minister Romano Prodi said Tuesday following a night of riots around a toxic dump.

"We will use the armed forces for urgent cases," he said after more than three hours of emergency talks with key ministers in Rome on the crisis that has left some 110,000 tonnes of uncollected garbage in the Naples region.

Police used tear gas against stone-throwing protestors late Monday as hundreds opposed to plans to reopen the Pianura landfill in a western suburb of Naples occupied the dump, setting a fire there and torching two buses outside.

Many landfills are controlled by the regional mafia who lucratively subvert safety regulations by trucking in industrial waste and dumping it illegally in and around Naples.

Prodi said the cabinet had agreed a short- and long-term plan to correct the dysfunctional waste disposal system.

"Sites that are immediately viable (will be) used as well as others to be identified by the competent authorities," he said.

The government will give the cities of the region 60 days to conform to new waste disposal norms, and assess fines for those that fail to comply, he added.

It was not immediately clear if the measures will lead to a further attempt to reopen the Pianura dump, which was closed in 1994 because of public health concerns.

During the night, security forces fired tear gas and charged the Pianura protestors several times, ANSA news agency reported. Protestors threw stones at firefighters deployed to put out the flaming buses.

Three television cameramen were assaulted and had their equipment broken or seized in the night of violence.

Police later retreated from the dump, prompting jubilant cries of victory from the protestors.

Pianura could take tens of thousands of tonnes of waste, only a fraction of the mountains of rubbish that has piled up in the Campania region around Naples, home to some six million people.

The city itself is coping with an excess of some 5,200 tonnes, press reports said.

"Maybe this crisis will clarify things," said environmentalist Raffaele Del Giudice, adding that there was plenty of blame to go around for the "catastrophic situation" in the unofficial capital of Italy's relatively impoverished south.

"One quarter of the toxic and industrial waste produced in the north of Italy is trucked to the south through companies in the north with ties to the Camorra (mafia)," noted Del Giudice of the environmental association Legambiente.

He added that waste treatment companies won contracts without fulfilling their commitments, building inadequate sites and failing to handle rubbish according to set standards.

"On the political level, authorities are to blame for failing to set up sorting categories. If they simply started by collecting the paper, plastic and glass in the rubbish that is accumulating in the streets they would resolve a big part of the problem," Del Giudice said.

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Pollution Shrinks Foetus Size
Brisbane, Australia (SPX) Jan 08, 2008
Queensland University of Technology senior research fellow Dr Adrian Barnett said the study compared the foetus sizes of more than 15,000 ultrasound scans in Brisbane to air pollution levels within a 14km radius of the city. "The study found that mothers with a higher exposure to air pollution had foetuses that were, on average, smaller in terms of abdominal circumference, head circumference and femur length," Dr Barnett said.

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