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Italian president criticises pessimism about the south

Says people should look at 'positive side'

06 December, 17:59
Italian president criticises pessimism about the south (ANSA) - Rome, December 6 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano encouraged people to look at the ''positive side of the situation'' in Naples and southern Italy in an interview published Friday.

He said number of initiatives make him "look with confidence to the resources and potential of the country, and also Naples and the south, about which heavily diffused images too often tend toward cynicism,'' said Napolitano, who was in Naples for the inauguration of a new office of the Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine, a national medical research centre. ''I am thinking of the campaign sowing panic and discrediting Naples with serious consequences for its economy, which started from the grave facts of the Land of Fires,'' Napolitano told Naples newspaper Il Mattino.

The Land of Fires is a nickname given to a stretch of territory between Naples and its northern neighbor Caserta which received the appellation from characteristic fires of burning waste.

The Neapolitan Camorra mafia - especially its Casalesi clan - has been accused of illegally dumping toxic industrial rubbish in fields or by the side of roads, and then often setting fires to dispose of it, spreading toxins through the air and on land, including dioxins. Illicit dumping of industrial waste, mainly hauled down from northern Italy and northern Europe, has gone on for many years and is thought to contribute to elevated cancer incidence in the Campania region as well as to contaminate produce grown there.

A 2011 report by the Campania regional environmental agency ARPA identified a three-million-square-metre area acutely tainted by toxic refuse. The nickname Land of Fires was picked up and widely diffused after Roberto Saviano wrote about it in his runaway bestselling non-fiction book ''Gomorrah'' (2006) about the Casalesi clan of the Naples-based Camorra mafia, which was later made into an award-winning film.

''The severity of this problem has been well-defined and confronted in a government decree with the Campania region,'' said Napolitano. ''I am pained by generalizations that stem from the extreme ease with which even the most dubious versions of certainly complex problems are presented in injurious terms and with total pessimism,'' Napolitano added.

Napolitano also took offense at accusations that the ancient Roman ruins of Pompeii were being neglected when ''a great restoration project'' has been launched with public funds.