Sort out waste crisis or face court Italy told

Italy has been told to get its house in order or face being dragged before the European courts over its poor handling of the Naples waste crisis.

The Campania region has been struggling with a lack of landfill space for months, which has led to the burning of rubbish in the streets, riots and the army being sent in to restore the peace in some areas(see related story).

The authorities have a weak grip on waste management in the region as the sector is seen as a traditional mob racket and mafia involvement is rife in the area.

Since before Christmas thousands of tonnes of rubbish have been left uncollected by the roadside in Campania.

This has led to incidents in which angry residents have set fire to waste piles in the streets.

The uncollected waste and the open fires pose serious health and environmental risks through the spread of disease and pollution of air, water and land.

Despite the difficulties faced by the Italian government, the EU has taken a hard line on the issue and is now just one step from taking Rome to court over its failures – which could lead to huge fines for not meeting its obligations under the Waste Framework Directive.

The European Commission has now sent Italy a final warning over the ‘chronic waste crisis plaguing Naples and the rest of the Campania region’.

While the commission accepts that Italy has already taken some measures to deal with the crisis, it is giving Italy just one month to respond instead of the usual two month deadline because of the urgency and gravity of the situation.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “The situation in Campania is intolerable and I fully understand the frustrations of residents who fear for their health.

“It is essential that the Italian authorities not only take effective measures to resolve the current emergency, as they are already doing, but also put in place the waste management infrastructure needed to provide a sustainable solution to problems which date back more than a decade.

“The Commission will continue its legal action, and if necessary use its powers to seek fines, until the situation in Campania is brought into line with the EU waste management standards that Italy and all other Member States have agreed to.”

Sam Bond

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