If the country fails to clean up thousands of tonnes of rubbish, Italy faces big fines, according to the EU. (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk)
For years the Campania region has suffered poor waste management, and this week, European inspectors who visited the region found that none of the measures demanded by a top European court in March have been implemented.
On Friday Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was in Naples for a meeting about the region’s waste problem which he has been accused of mismanaging. He said the problem would be fixed within two weeks.
At a press conference afterwards, Berlusconi dismissed the threat of EU fines, saying he was hopeful that the government could ‘nullify’ it.
But according to the inspectors who visited the city this week, the rubbish crisis will take years to bring under control, said Janez Potocnik, European Environment Commissioner.
In a statement, he stressed that this is a “matter of urgency”.
“In the absence of an effective waste management plan for Campania, the danger to human health and damage to the environment… will continue,” said Potocnik.
Chronic waste problem
A rise in the numbers of rats, pigeons and seagulls has been reported by Naples residents in the street, around the piles of rubbish.
Experts have warned of the dangers of a rise in gastrointestinal diseases.
Rubbish dumps are overflowing and some have been closed by local residents. They fear contamination by unregulated toxic waste disposal. There have been protests for similar reasons over opening new landfills.
Other protests have been held over authorities’ seeming inability to sort out the chronic waste problem. Around two years ago, Berlusconi had said the Naples rubbish crisis would be treated as a natural disaster.
The EU is calling on local and national authorities to clear the streets, open contested dumps and persuade more of the population to recycle.
They are also asking authorities to speed up the repeatedly delayed construction of incinerators.
7,200 tonnes of rubbish is accumulating every day in the Campania region, said the Environment Commissioner.
And he urged authorities to establish measures to safely dispose of “almost eight million tonnes” of bundled waste in several storage sites in Campania.
The commission would have to return to court without a proper waste management plan, Potocnik said, adding that the likely outcome would be the imposition of fines.
Campania authorities were already in trouble with the EU last week, but over a different matter : local officials were told to pay back 720,000 euros of EU money intended for regional development, because they had used it to stage an Elton John concert in Naples.