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Plan to end Naples rubbish crisis wins cautious welcome

by Staff Writers
Naples, Italy (AFP) Jan 8, 2008
Plans by the Italian government to deploy troops to help rid the Naples region of mountains of rubbish won a cautious welcome from residents and environmentalists on Tuesday as tensions eased at a toxic dump that has seen a series of violent protests.

"Finally, a plan ... to clear the rubbish from the streets of Campania: better late than never," the environmental association Legambiente said on its website.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi announced a 120-day campaign to end a crisis that has seen some 110,000 tonnes of uncollected garbage accumulate in Naples and the surrounding Campania region.

Soldiers will help in "urgent cases," he said, adding that much of the excess garbage will be sent to sites outside of Campania, and at least three new incinerators will be built in the region.

The plan will "end a 14-year state of emergency," Prodi said after three hours of talks with key ministers, alluding to a decree first imposed in 1994 and renewed annually ever since.

He named former police chief Gianni De Gennaro a new "super-commissioner" in the crisis, to be aided by an army general for no more than four months.

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, Prodi said.

Legambiente, while hailing the plan, warned: "Exporting trash outside of the region is the immediate and inevitable solution, but it must not last more than a few weeks."

In Caserta, north of Naples, provincial president Sandro De Franciscis voiced "earnest appreciation" for the plan, praising the "novelty of a speedy return to the usual powers of local entities."

Caserta Province "has every interest in continuing to work to find solutions as quickly as possible ... (and) to assure effective management of the waste cycle," he told reporters.

At the Pianura dump in a western suburb of Naples, the scene of several nights of rioting, neither protestors nor security forces were present in large numbers as night fell on Tuesday, an AFP photographer said.

A separate government statement Tuesday afternoon said a final decision had not been reached on whether to reopen Pianura, which was closed in 1994 because of public health concerns.

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

Massimiliano Marotta, a lawyer who specialises in the issue, told AFP: "The Camorra ... are active at every link in the chain, from collecting rubbish to storing it and treating it."

The mafia "have infiltrated numerous companies managing rubbish collection by waste treatment centres which it controls directly or where they have had associates hired," Marotta said.

Pianura could take tens of thousands of tonnes of waste, but it would be 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," Raffaele Del Giudice of Legambiente told AFP earlier 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)," he said.

Del Giudice added that waste treatment companies won contracts without fulfilling their commitments, building inadequate sites and failing to comply with set standards for handling rubbish.

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Italian troops to help dig Naples out of rubbish crisis
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.

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