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Govt says 21.5 sq kms in 'Land of Fires' could be toxic

Survey of 1,076 square kilometers under anti-Ecomafia law

11 March, 18:10
Govt says 21.5 sq kms in 'Land of Fires' could be toxic (ANSA) - Rome, March 11 - Land to be checked for toxicity in the southern Campania region under an emergency law to stem environmental damage caused by the mafia amounts to 21.5 square kilometers, Italy's government said Tuesday.

"We also identified 51 sites where safeguarding measures will be made a priority," Agriculture Policies Minister Maurizio Martina told reporters at a joint news briefing with Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin and Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti.

A total of 1,076 square kilometers in 57 municipalities were mapped out for possible environmental cleanup, but just 2% of the total turned out to be suspect, the ministers said.

The Senate on February 5 ratified 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.

The decree 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.

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

It introduces tougher controls on agricultural land where waste is often illegally dumped, and calls for testing of toxicity levels in soil used for farming.

The new law also 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.

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 diseases linked to pollution.

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 serious health warnings.

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.