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New unrest as government vows 'radical' solution to Naples rubbish crisis

by Staff Writers
Naples, Italy (AFP) Jan 8, 2008
 New unrest erupted outside Naples 
overnight, the ANSA news agency reported Tuesday, as Italy's centre-left government pledged a speedy, "radical" solution to a Mafia-linked rubbish disposal crisis in the region.

A huge fire raged at a dump occupied by protesters who took it over after security forces made a tactical retreat following days of clashes over the site, which authorities plan to reopen to cope with a massive logjam of uncollected rubbish.

Outside the Pianura dump, near the Pozzuoli suburb west of Naples, protesters were using an earth mover to break down a containment wall for debris to block the access road along with dozens of overturned garbage bins and downed traffic light poles, ANSA said.

Pozzuoli residents, up in arms over a plan to reopen the Pianura landfill, claimed a victory when security forces moved away from the site on Monday evening, allowing protesters to occupy it.

But the situation turned tense again as security forces began pushing back towards the site, ANSA said.

The renewed protest was apparently sparked by an announcement that preparatory work to reopen the site would go ahead, along with reports that soldiers were arriving to carry out the work.

In Rome earlier, government spokesman Silvio Sircana told journalists: "Within 24 hours we will be ready to confront the situation radically," after Prime Minister Romano Prodi met with cabinet members to address the chronic problem in the impoverished southern city and the surrounding Campania region.

Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio then announced that he had asked for army reinforcements to help collect the mountains of rubbish that have accumulated for more than two weeks.

After brainstorming separately with ministers including Scanio and Interior Minister Giuliano Amato, Prodi will convene a "summit" of all the relevant ministers at 11:00 am (1000 GMT) on Tuesday, Italian media reported.

The crisis prompted finger-pointing from outside the government as well as within Prodi's fractious ruling coalition as the prime minister was already bracing for a new round of threats to his precarious political position.

The right-wing opposition claims that Scanio, who heads Italy's Green party, is partly to blame for the crisis for having refused to allow new incinerators to be built in the Naples region, home to some six million people.

A single incinerator is set to go into operation in early 2009.

The centre-left mayor of Naples, Rosa Russo Iervolino, for her part broadsided Prodi with the declaration that he "was informed of the risks a year ago."

Authorities want to add tens of thousands of tonnes of waste to the Pianura site, only a fraction of the more than 110,000 tonnes that have accumulated with existing treatment centres operating beyond capacity.

Across the region, residents have set dozens of fires, sending dioxin and other toxins into the air.

Clandestine dumping by organised crime dubbed the "ecomafia" has forced the closure of several treatment centres in Campania.

Criminal investigators say the Camorra Mafia pay truckers to haul industrial waste from factories in northern Italy for fees that undercut those of the legal trade. They dump it at existing landfills in the Naples region or create new ones by blasting holes in mountainsides.

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