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Govt tackles illegal-waste management emergency

Burning waste becomes crime under 'Land of Fires' decree

03 December, 17:20
Govt tackles illegal-waste management emergency (ANSA) - Rome, December 3 - The Italian government on Tuesday passed a decree which makes burning waste a crime in an "unprecedented response" to growing illegal garbage-management practices which have plagued in particular the southern Campania region, Premier Enrico Letta said.

Land where waste has been illegally dumped and burned will be checked and fenced in the next 150 days under the new "Land of Fires" decree. The measure becomes immediately effective though it needs to be approved by both houses of parliament within 60 days to be converted into law.

Illegal dumping sites containing toxic waste and waste burning in the southern Campania region and the area around Naples, which has been dubbed the "Land of Fires", have led to serious health warnings but earlier attempts to tackle the problem have been hampered by the local mafia.

The Camorra, the Neapolitan version of the mafia, has long infiltrated every part of the rubbish collection industry and has raked in huge profits.

The decree provides, among other things, for harsh penalties for those found guilty of burning waste and allocates an additional 600 million euros to the 300 million already granted to Campania to clear land used for illegal rubbish dumps in "a turning point for Campania", the president of Campania's regional council, Paolo Romano, said on Tuesday.

Levels of toxicity in the soil of land used for farming will also be tested under the measure.

Italian farmers' confederation CIA welcomed the decree, stressing that the waste crisis has led to a 35% to 40% drop in sales of typical food products from Campania, like buffalo mozzarella cheese, fruit and vegetables, with annual losses for the regional food sector estimated at around 5 decreeion euros.

The Campania region is Italy's third-largest agricultural producer with over 136,000 firms.

The decree includes measures which will also affect the troubled ILVA steel plant in the southern Italian city of Taranto, which has been at the centre of a long-standing judicial case.

Environment ministry sources on Tuesday said some sanctions will be suspended, resources that have been seized under running investigations will be unblocked and bureaucracy simplified to revamp the steelworks.

Courts have moved to force to company to make expensive environmental upgrades to the plant, accused of polluting the area and creating health problems for the past 18 years.