Social and ecological devastation in southwestern Italy

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    First, I’d like to apologize for the inadequacy of the text that follows. I’m a student, English is not my first language and you don’t learn it too well at school.

    You might have heard about the rubbish crisis that repeatedly hit Naples and the surrounding area in the decade 2000-2010 — with trash uncollected for weeks rotting in the street, people setting fire to it in desperation, sewage rats, episodes of violence and a horrible stench difficult to imagine.
    However indecent it may look from the outside, the urban waste problem is actually part of a broader and equally dirty context involving political administration and criminal activities.
    In Campania (the region to which Naples belong, second in Italy for population) waste disposal has for a long time been infiltrated by criminal groups (clans of the mafia-style organization called camorra) and has become a major criminal business since the late 80s-early 90s. In that period (thanks to political complicities of all sorts) Campania became the destination of thousands of tons industrial and toxic waste products (mainly from northern Italy, but presumably also from abroad), which were then dumped into the ground or burned so as to get rid of them as quickly as possible — an extralegal system that allowed industries doing business with camorra to save up to 90% of waste material elimination costs.
    After intense activity in the first years this practice has slowed down but continued to this day. The local population (excluding the ones that were corresponsible and even received small shares of the profits) was reduced to silence through intimidation and State authorities didn’t interfere.
    In some cases, toxic ashes deriving from industrial production were distributed as fertilizers. Whole sets of trucks were buried in the ground at night without even unloading them because the criminals themselves were too afraid of the content. I’ve even heard (it sounds grotesque but not at all improbable) of illegat dump sites found inside the Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio, a natural reserve which surrounds the volcano.
    As a result there are now numberless contamitated sites (some estimates suggest a number ranging from 3000 to 5000) throughout the regions, but mostly in the Naples and Caserta provinces, where the greatest part of the population is concentrated. This is also a partial explanation to the crisis mentioned before — landfill sites were insufficient and some of them reached their capacity very quickly because they had been secretely stuffed with external material which shouldn’t have been there.

    In 2004 The Lancet Oncology published a revelatory article [] describing anomalously high rates of cancer in some parts of the region (notably, in the infamous “triangle of death” — although Campania as a whole ranks first if you consider the general statistical incidence of tumors in Italy). In 2010 the NATO command in Naples even suggested its members to avoid using tap water as they considered it polluted and unsafe (some of the results of their research can be found at These are all indications of tremendous health risks for the local population and of deep land contamination.
    Anyway, over the last years public awareness about this grim situation has grown a lot. Local citizens have even started to organize autonomously, raise demands (in particular, they advocate immediate environmental restoration of the land) and put pressure on the government. Indeed, they have to face not only criminal violence, but also a local political class known for its collusion and cowardy and indifference from the State (which is, by the way, the typical political scenario for southern Italy). Although the first generation of criminal bosses are all dead or in jail, there has been no large-scale land reclamation project, even if our current prime minister formally included it in a law proposal approved a couple of years ago, and very little assistence (apart from sending in the military in a couple of instances). Authorities are not even very willing to publish cancer registries, which would be fundamental to evaluate the risk. Our current ministro della salute (head of the Health Department) even suggests that abnormal cancer rates are due to incorrect living styles and not polluting factors.
    That’s why many people don’t trust politicians too much — because they only seek their own interest. For instance, in 2004-5 presidente Berlusconi decided to solve the rubbish crisis by building a huge incinerator in Acerra — an idea that was obviously opposed by the population, in favour of land requalification and recycling. However, public discontent and mobilitation were criminalized and repressed with extreme violence and the project was finally achieved. Today — needless to say? — the incinerator may represent an environmental threat in a land already ravaged by criminal economy, mass unemployment and general underdevelopment — just like the rest of Campania.

    This is it, or at least this is how I see it (but I’m not the only one). I have read somewhere that the worst level of pollution will be reached in about 50 years, when the infiltration of toxic substances will be complete. I don’t know if anything can be done, but if the situation remains as it is I’m afraid that long before 2065 the whole population will be rotting with tumors as the land itself.

    Sorry if the text looks a bit like a school essay but it is really hard to express oneself.

    • This topic was modified 6 years, 7 months ago by  ganzo.
    • This topic was modified 6 years, 7 months ago by  ganzo. Reason: Links didn't work
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