Italy passes decree against illegal waste disposal

ROME Tue Dec 3, 2013 9:17am EST

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta arrives to attend a meeting with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu at Villa Madama in Rome December 2, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta arrives to attend a meeting with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu at Villa Madama in Rome December 2, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

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ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta announced measures on Tuesday to try to combat a fresh rubbish emergency in the area around the southern city of Naples where organized crime and widespread abuse have created a chronic environmental crisis.

The so-called "terra dei fuochi", the "fire country" between Naples and nearby Caserta has been notorious for decades for uncontrolled deposits of toxic waste that have been blamed for unusually high levels of cancer and other diseases in the area.

"The fire country has become a symbol of everything that has gone wrong in the south," Carlo Trigilia, minister for regional cohesion, told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

The decree announced on Tuesday will make it a criminal offence to burn rubbish without authorization and introduce tougher controls on agricultural land, large areas of which have been rendered toxic by uncontrolled waste dumping.

"It is a matter of urgent necessity to map out areas affected by pollution which could require the imposition of limits on cultivation," the government said in a statement.

The government will also set aside 600 million euros ($813.39 million) for clean-up operations, which will be added to 300 million euros already pledged by the regional government of Campania.

Illegal dumps and uncontrolled burning of tyres, chemical waste and other toxic material have caused growing alarm with a demonstration in Naples last month drawing some 70,000 protestors.

According to green campaign group Legambiente, quoting fire service data, around 6,000 illegal waste incinerations were registered between January 2012 and August this year. It said 2,000 polluted waste disposal sites were also identified.

Legambiente said the Campania region on its own accounted for 14 percent of all environmental crime, the largest share of any Italian region, ahead of Sicily and Calabria.

($1 = 0.7377 euros)

(Reporting By James Mackenzie)

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