Italian military to guard dump sites amid crisis
Stars and Stripes May 23, 2008
NAPLES, Italy — Italy’s new government has promised to take out Naples’ trash — and to impose stiff penalties, to include jail time, for anyone who stands in its way.
Making good on a campaign promise to focus governmental attention on the trash emergency that has buried Naples for months, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday held his first cabinet meeting here. He announced dump sites will be "military zones," guarded by Italian troops. Those who impede haulers from dumping their loads face up to five years in prison.
The government will respond to the trash crisis "exactly as if it were an emergency caused by an earthquake or volcanic eruptions," the flamboyant prime minister announced Wednesday during a press briefing held in the Royal Palace. Flanked by cabinet members and his newly selected "trash czar," Berlusconi announced a no-nonsense approach to ridding the streets of tons of uncollected refuse.
The newly formed Italian government has not officially asked for direct help from the U.S. Navy here, home to two bases and more than 6,000 sailors and families.
"We have not been asked directly for assistance by the new government," the base commander, Capt. Floyd Hehe, said. "We have, however, engaged in a constant dialogue with Italian officials since the current problems began to surface late last year. We are continuing to do our part by ensuring we properly recycle on base as well as control the level of garbage awaiting collection."
Berlusconi booted Gianni de Gennaro, the special commissioner appointed in January by the former government to tackle the emergency, and tapped Guido Bertolaso, Italy’s civil security chief, with the added responsibility of resolving the rubbish crisis.
Berlusconi announced that the Italian government will open five dump sites in the Campania region, and Naples will build an incinerator at an undetermined location. If the local government can’t find a location for the incinerator within 30 days, Bertolaso will do it for them.
He also mandated a strict recycling schedule. By year’s end, 25 percent of residents’ garbage must have recyclable products separated, followed by 35 percent by 2009 and 50 percent by the end of 2010. Those who fail to recycle their garbage face fines.
The trash crisis has led to near-barbaric tactics by some Italians.
Residents repeatedly have voted down governmental attempts to build incinerators, citing adverse health concerns — but then set fire to mounds of garbage that line the streets, creating respiratory hazards and a release of toxic fumes, Italian environmental and health officials have said.
When firefighters respond to douse the flames, protesters have pelted them with rocks. Protesters, too, have attacked truckers hauling garbage to dump sites reopened by de Gennaro, and the police were called out to protect them.
Residents fear that, in their haste to rid the streets of unsightly refuse, the government-contracted haulers will dump in already overrun landfills untested and possibly toxic waste, contaminating residents’ drinking water and soil.
It’s been reported that the trash-hauling contracts and the regional landfills are controlled by the Neapolitan mafia, called the Camorra, which reportedly circumvents government fees and regulations to cheaply dispose of trash and toxic waste.