with rubbish mountain
By David Willey
BBC News, Naples
There is a sense of desperation
in Naples, a
teeming Mediterranean metropolis of nearly four million.
They have run out of landfills - usually former
quarries - traditionally used to dump their rubbish. And they have failed to
implement orders from Rome and Brussels to sort their waste for recycling.
The European Commission's deadline for Naples to solve its
rubbish problem expired on Thursday.
Many families do not know which way to turn to
keep their children healthy. Some have even requested political asylum in Switzerland as
a last resort. So far, the Swiss have not been very responsive.
Naples - with its stupendous bay and harbour - was once a popular winter
tourist destination because of its mild climate.
In February, its hotels are practically empty.
Tour operators are worried about the appalling image of the city projected
internationally by the rubbish crisis.
More than 250,000 tons of stinking, putrefying
household waste lies uncollected along the streets of many of the outlying
areas of the city.
Thousands of acres of land are filled with
mountainous stacks of "ecoballs" - unsorted compressed rubbish, in
which toxic waste is often mixed with ordinary household refuse and the remains
of old cars.
Municipal workers gave up rubbish collections in
December, and although the city centre has now been cleaned up and had most of
its waste removed with the help of the army, the emergency continues. Firemen
answer an average of 20 calls each night as blazes of rubbish light up the
From the military headquarters where he has
taken up residence since being appointed Naples'
"rubbish tsar" in January, Giovanni Di Gennaro surveys the very
limited progress he has made.
"I have to get waste disposal moving again.
I have been given until 7 May, before the hot weather arrives," the former
chief of Italy's
national police says.
is still creating rubbish faster than it can dispose of it," he adds.
This week, he has been meeting with the Cardinal
Archbishop of Naples
to try to get the Catholic Church involved.
One-tenth of the city's 281 parish priests are
already giving lessons to their parishioners on how to sort their rubbish into
different containers for plastic, paper, glass and compost.
The trouble is that most households in this
sprawling city have never seen on their streets any of the new coloured plastic
rubbish bins now common in other parts of Italy.
Luigi Berghantino, a postgraduate student, is a
member of a group of concerned citizens - doctors, ecologists, physicists,
judges, geologists, journalists - who monitor the waste crisis by holding
regular weekly meetings in their spare time.
He seems satisfied by some of the decisions
taken by Commissioner Di Gennaro.
"Di Gennaro has stopped the reopening of
old landfills," Luigi says.
"He has created some new temporary storage
facilities for waste, and he has understood that it is cheaper and more
efficient to cart away Naples' waste by ship
rather than by freight train to Germany
as at present."
Ferdinando Laghi, another member of the group,
is a hospital doctor who specialises in environmental medicine.
"Waste disposal here has run out of
control, with illegal dumps being created and rubbish being left by the side of
the road," Dr Laghi says.
"Incineration is not a solution, it neither
disposes of the waste, nor does it remove the health hazards. It simply creates
toxic dust and ash and attacks people's health in another way."
Last weekend, I joined thousands of families
gathered in the Piazza Dante, in the centre of Naples, to hear TV
comedian-turned-political-activist Beppe Grillo address a Refuse Day rock
There was loud applause for Mr Grillo's appeal
to Neapolitans to declare their independence - just like Kosovo - in protest at
the failure of both local government and the authorities in Rome to resolve the crisis.
Mr Grillo's blog - which mercilessly lampoons
and mocks Italy's leading
politicians - is the eighth most visited internet site in Italy, he
claims. In a recent blog, he appealed to Germany
kindly to invade Italy
immediately to set things in order.
Dr Antonio Marfella, hospital oncologist, also
joined in Mr Grillo's protest meeting.
The rubbish crisis has been out of control for
at least 15 years, he told me.
"Big business all over Italy has profited by paying the Camorra, local
organised crime, at extremely low cost, to dispose of their industrial waste by
dumping it in the Naples
"Unfortunately the Camorra chose one of the
most fertile and agriculturally profitable parts of Italy;
it's as if they had chosen to dump toxic waste in the area where Champagne is produced in France," Dr Marfella says.
Edoardo Bennato, a popular Neapolitan song
writer and rock star from the 1980s, was one of the lead performers at Mr
Grillo's 12-hour marathon concert.
"We love Beppe Grillo because he's outside
the political system," Mr Bennato says.
"Italy is still not a real nation.
It is a question of latitude, the difference between northern and southern
mentalities. We have two different mentalities but only one nation, and it just
doesn't work. This is what my songs are about," he says.
Anna Fava, a university student doing research
into EU funding, blames local politicians - as well as organised crime - for
the current mess in Naples.
"The political parties here are not real
representatives of ordinary voters. They have bowed to big business and the
Camorra and have connived at the mixing up of household and toxic waste. Now
toxins are beginning to affect our water supply and the food chain," she
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/02/28 13:40:49 GMT
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