Angry About the Waste Crisis Naples Residents Torch Piles of Garbage

Citizens in Naples have started to protest against mounting piles of garbage in the street by setting them on fire. But the city has been in a "waste disposal state of emergency" for years.

Firefighters were still hustling around Naples on Thursday to extinguish bonfires set by locals frustrated with a lack of garbage collection.

Dumps in the region are overburdened or closed, and around 2,000 tons of garbage have piled up in the city over the past two weeks, according to Agence France-Presse. "Arsonists" in Naples started setting the piles on fire late on January 1, and firefighters were still dousing flames this morning. Many of those lighting the fires, however, were locals frustrated by the piles of smelly garbage on the streets outside their windows.

Protesters also blocked traffic for the second day on a road near a condemned dump which authorities want to re-open. The reason so many dumps are in such horrific condition is that a local mafia has used them illegally and forced their closure.

Some dumps are illegal to begin with: The Camorra mafia reportedly pays truckers to carry industrial waste from factories in the north to unofficial dumps blasted in the mountainsides around Naples. The black market in garbage collection is the Camorra family's second-largest business, after drug trafficking, according to mafia experts.

The garbage problem became acute in 2007 as the dumps filled up, according to the BBC; in fact the US embassy in Rome warned American tourists about a health risk in Naples last summer. But the problem has been brewing for years. Italian authorities first declared a "waste disposal state of emergency" in 1994.

"They call it an emergency," wrote Corriere della Sera, the Italian daily, "but the same story has been repeated for a decade now."

The European Union also voiced its concern on Thursday over the Naples garbage situation, with EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas saying that Brussels could take action against Italy if the garbage crisis is not solved. The situation "worries the Commission and it will monitor events closely in the coming weeks," a Dimas spokeswoman told the Italian news agency ANSA on Thursday.

Garbage also shows signs of becoming a political issue in Italy with center-right politician Antonio Martusciello of Forza Italia saying that the stinking piles provide a graphic illustration of the failure of the current center-left coalition government.


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