Thursday, January 3, 2008

trash tsars of Naples

iTALY: January 4, 2008

NAPLES - About 200 people on Thursday blocked the entrance to a waste dump in Naples which authorities planned to reopen to resolve a garbage crisis blamed on mismanagement, corruption and organised crime.

Shoulder-high mounds of rotting, rat-infested garbage have accumulated in the southern city for months as delays have dogged the opening of a massive incinerator meant to end a 14-year 'state of emergency' for waste in the Naples area.

An end-year deadline for opening the incinerator, designed to burn the waste, was missed and all waste dumps are full, forcing the authorities to try to reopen a landfill that was closed in 1996.

Hundreds of garbage piles in Naples and surrounding towns have been set alight by frustrated residents in recent days, fire authorities said, prompting fears of high levels of cancer-causing dioxin emissions.

Italy declared a state of emergency for waste in Campania, the region of which Naples is the capital, in 1994. But successive trash tsars appointed by the government have failed to end the crisis.

Part of the problem is that organised crime -- rife in the Naples area -- has made illegal waste disposal an industry that was worth 5.8 billion euros (US$8.6 billion) in 2006, according to a study by conservation group Legambiente. The Camorra controls many of the trucks and workers used to haul away trash. But it also operates illegal dumps used more in times of crisis — and far more harmful than legal ones to humans and the environment.

Mafia-controlled waste disposal -- by burial or burning -- has poisoned the environment so badly that people in some parts of the region are two to three times more likely to get liver cancer than in the rest of the country, according to Italy's National Research Council.

Business at Pizzeria Napoli Nord is down 70 percent, and no one has the slightest doubt why: The reasons include eggshells, scuzzy teddy bears, garlic, hair that looks human, boxes for blood pressure medicine, moldy wine bottles — all in an unbroken heap of garbage, at places 6 feet high, stretching 100 or more yards along the curb to the pizzeria’s doorstep.

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