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Senate approves emergency 'Ecomafia' decree, becomes law

Tackles mafia, industrial damage to environment

05 February, 18:19
Senate approves emergency 'Ecomafia' decree, becomes law (ANSA) - Rome, February 5 - An emergency environmental law to deal with damage wrought to the environment by the mafia as well as industrial pollution from the ILVA steel plant in southern Italy passed Wednesday in the Senate to become a law. The decree, which passed in the House on Friday, was introduced by the government in December to deal with the environmental crimes of the so-called Ecomafia in an area dubbed the "terra dei fuochi" or land of fires in the southern Campania region.

It includes measures that have been toughened up since December, according to Environment Minister Andrea Orlando.

Under the law, burning rubbish without authorization becomes a crime.

The law also introduces tougher controls on agricultural land, where waste is often illegally dumped, which will be reportedly checked and fenced in the next 150 days.

It provides harsh penalties for those found guilty of burning waste and allocates an additional 600 million euros to the 300 million euros previously granted to Campania to clear land used for illegal rubbish dumps.

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

The law 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.

The powerful Naples-based Camorra mafia has long infiltrated every part of the rubbish-collection industry and has raked in huge profits even as its illegal dumps and uncontrolled burning of waste and other toxic materials have been blamed for unusually high levels of cancer and other disease linked to pollution that will plague future generations.

In particular, its disposal of toxic waste, including burning, in the southern Campania region and the area between Naples and Caserta - the land of fires - has led to very grave health warnings.

Mafia infiltration of waste disposal has become a major environmental and health issue as hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste - some of it dangerously contaminated - has been illegally dumped in what some have described as an ecological time bomb that will continue to poison the land for at least another 50 years.

In many cases, hazardous or toxic waste has, in clear violation of environmental laws, been dumped in landfills that are not properly sealed with the result that waste materials seep into the soil and aquifers.

According to environmental group Legambiente, 14% of environmental crimes in Italy take place in Campania, where 6,000 illegal waste fires and 2,000 toxic dumps were reported between January last year and August 2013.

The creation of the Ecomafia and the illegal trafficking of waste was exposed in the bestselling book Gomorrah.

The author of that book, Roberto Saviano, also exposed the criminal empire of the Casalesi, one of the most powerful families in the Neapolitan mafia, and as a result has been under police protection because of death threats.

His book was later turned into an award-winning film of the same name and documents the mob's deadly hold over rackets and businesses ranging from toxic-waste disposal to construction, drugs and even the garment industry.