Italian officials arrested in garbage malpractice, scientific community urges waste control

Source:Xinhua Published: 2014-1-10 10:09:53

The country of history and art, Italy, has also become sadly known in the world for a series of waste disposal scandals that registered the latest episode on Thursday.

Local media reported that seven regional officials and local businessmen have been put under house arrest by police on charges of "criminal conspiracy in waste trafficking" around Rome.

The former president of Lazio region of which Rome is the capital city, Bruno Landi, as well as the owner of the Malagrotta landfill near Rome, Manlio Cerroni, were among those detained.

Police said that tonnes of waste destined to separate collection of rubbish ended up in the Malagrotta landfill, despite the owners of the separate waste plant were doing business.

Around 18 million euros (24.4 million US dollars) in assets were seized as part of the probe.

Serious problems in the handling of waste in various parts of Italy led the European Union (EU) to announce last year that it was taking the country before the European Court of Justice for failing to implement the correct rubbish treatment procedures.

Also on Thursday, ANSA news agency showed the pictures of what it defined as a "kind of open-air garbage dump" found inside a park close to the iconic Colosseum in the heart of Rome.

In recent years, rubbish has started piling up in the streets of Rome and especially Naples, another renowned art city in southern Italy, due to lack of landfill areas as well as criminal infiltration.

Illegal dumping sites have plagued in particular the southern Campania region, of which Naples is the capital city, where serious health warnings were issued but earlier attempts to tackle the problem were reportedly hampered by the local mafia that infiltrated waste management.

For many years, the mafia clans have allegedly dumped toxic industrial waste, often setting fires to dispose of it, in the "Land of Fires", a nickname given to an extended area between Naples and the nearby city of Caserta acutely tainted by toxic refuse.

Experts have blamed this malpractice for elevated cancer incidence in the region as well as to contaminate produce grown there.

Only last month, the coalition government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta passed a decree against waste burning in response to increasing illegal garbage management. Burning rubbish without authorization became a crime, while tougher controls were also introduced on agricultural land.

"It was a step but certainly much more needs to be done, and the scientific community expects a closer collaboration with the government," Paola Dama, founder of the Task Force Pandora, a group of professionals created to study pollution linked to illegal waste discharge, told Xinhua.

Dama, a PhD in molecular oncology and pharmacology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, US, said her group, presently composed by around 30 experts but open to new participants, was aimed at becoming an influential interlocutor in the dialogue with political authorities, who need the help of technicians to deal with the waste issue.

In fact Thursday's news was also a "positive signal" that Italy has started realizing the need to tackle interest groups in order to deal with the waste problem, Rossano Ercolini, who was awarded the 2013 Goldman Environmental Prize for his leadership in a grassroots campaign on the merits of zero waste, said.

As a result of Ercolini's efforts, 40 incinerators have been scrapped or shut down and 117 municipalities have joined his home town in adopting a goal of zero waste.

Ercolini, who is an elementary teacher in the small town of Capannori in central Italy, explained to Xinhua that the most efficient remedy to waste mismanagement was "investing on education".

The teacher said he was "optimistic" about the future. The arrests in Rome have highlighted "the good practices that exist in Italy and must be taught to the young generations, for their goodness and for the goodness of their home country," he added.

Posted in: Europe

blog comments powered by Disqus