Naples' Garbage Crisis Worsens, Sparks Health Fears

by VR Sreeraman on  May 20, 2008 at 11:05 AM Environmental Health
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Firefighters in Naples tackled scores of burning rubbish piles as the Italian city organised special garbage trains to Germany on Monday to alleviate its waste crisis.
 Naples' Garbage Crisis Worsens, Sparks Health Fears
Naples' Garbage Crisis Worsens, Sparks Health Fears

Tens of thousands of tonnes of waste have piled up since late last year as a 14-year problem over a lack of incinerators reaches a new peak.

During the night, firefighters in the southern city reported 90 separate fires, most started by angry inhabitants as summer heat intensifies the stench from the decomposing rubbish.

Silvio Berlusconi's new government is to announce new measures to deal with the crisis at a special cabinet meeting in the city on Wednesday.

"Every six to seven minutes, one of our emergency vehicles sets off with its sirens screaming," local fire commander Ugo Bonessio told La Repubblica newspaper.

The company in charge of collecting Naples' rubbish, l'Asia, promised Monday to start special collections, saying there was currently 3,500 tonnes of uncollected rubbish in the city, compared with more than 5,000 tonnes on Saturday.

"Trains loaded with waste should be leaving today for Germany," Asia president Pasquale Losa told ANSA news agency.

Around 100,000 tonnes of waste was to exported to Germany for disposal.

In addition to the 5,000 tonnes of waste still littering Naples, there are tens of thousands of refuse pile along roads in the Campania region.

Toxins believed to be seeping into the soil from this waste caused a health scare earlier this year when the region's prized buffalo mozzarella cheese was found to containing raised toxin levels.

The combination of a lack of incinerators and full-to-capacity landfill sites have combined over the past decade to become a major national issue.

La Republicca called on Berlusconi to designate around a dozen sites in Campania for landfills, over the heads of any complaints from local politicians.

"We must not hesitate to impose these new sites on municipal mayors," it declared.

The government must also reserve the right to draft in the army to help in the crisis, it added -- a measure already taken by Berlusconi's predecessor as prime minister, Romano Prodi.

Soldiers have already helped out clearing buildings such as schools in recent days.

"The escalation in rat colonies and the risk of transmission of diseases like leptospirosis (transmitted through the urine of infected rodents)," has created a "dramatic" health risk, president of the Naples College of Physicians, Giuseppe Scalera, warned on Sunday.

The European Commission this month launched legal action against Italy before an EU court over its failure to tackle the crisis.

Although the previous government appointed a waste management pointman to tackle the problem -- former police chief Gianni De Gennaro -- the commission said authorities have failed to come up with convincing plans that would lead to a long-term solution.

Many landfills in Campania are controlled by the Camorra mafia, which is believed to illegally ship in industrial waste from the north for landfill disposal, and oppose new incinerators.

Source: AFP

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