Italy’s environmental disaster equals an HIV epidemic

by IRPI

The environmental disaster of Campania region, placed in the South of Italy – caused by years of illegal trafficking of toxic waste and endless waste emergencies – can be compared to an outbreak of HIV. After three years of inquiry, here is the shocking verdict of the Italian Parliamentary inquiry commission on illegal activities linked to waste managing. Between 2009 and 2010 two IRPI’s journalists have gathered evidences of the dreadful situation. They filmed in Campania – around the so-called ‘triangle of death’ and ‘land of fires’- both waste emergencies and illegal dumping. Below is their video on the disaster. Following, is a synthesis of the report of the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission.

It is made of nothing less than 772 pages. It is the report on Campania’s situation drawn by the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission on the illegal activities linked to waste managing, headed by Gaetano Pecorella. The report has been made public these days, after three years of auditions, missions, inspections, studies and dossier.

The conclusions drawn by the Commission are dreadful, but they are not coming as a surprise to those whom have engaged with the problem for long. Journalists, but especially citizens and civil society organisations whom have been forced to live in a waste emergency status for more than twenty years. Many have been denouncing, reporting and filming – surrounded by widespread indifference.

“Precisely how much has pollution permeated the soil – the report quotes – how much it has transferred from soil into food, and from food into humans, it is not given to know.”

But one thing is sure. “We are facing incalculable damages, that will impact the next generations. The environmental damage that took place is destined, unfortunately, to show its effects in an amplified and progressive way in the years to come, with a peak in a fifty years time. This fact can be read as the right and tragic synthesis of Campania’s situation”, reads the report.

A frightful example, quoted by the report, is that of the poisoning of ground waters in Giugliano area. The poisoning happened because, from the ‘80s until 2004, the local organised crime, Camorra, illegally dumped at least 30.700 tonnes of toxic waste coming from the Acna of Cengio, a chemical company of the North of Italy. From the aquifers, the deadly substances leaked into the wells, used by farmers both for agriculture and buffalos.

In describing the disaster of Giugliano and its surroundings (today known as the ‘land of fires’ for the continuous fires of toxic waste that are being set by the Camorra, a raped land that borders with the so-called ‘triangle of death’, another area of Campania filled with toxic waste) the report quotes Alessandro Milita, prosecutor of the Naples District Anti-Mafia Bureau, who spoke to the Commission on 10 October 2010: “We are facing a paradigmatic example because….it has to do with the proven poisoning of aquifers with, most worryingly, a culmination of contamination – which is already ongoing– with a peak in 2064. We are thus facing a case (the only currently taking place in Italy) where, the outstretching of the action of polluting, would mean an exasperation in time so that, if comparing human body to the environment, the situation can be equalised to an HIV epidemic.”

An expert report on those areas is also given to the Commission by the geologist Giovanni Balestri, whom, appointed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Naples, shows how all the area north of Naples, bordering the Casertano area, is infested by Camorra’s illegal landfills and thus is highly polluted.

According to Balestri, the peak in pollution will be reached in a 50-year-time, when the leachate and other toxic substances, product of tonnes of waste, will permeate the aquifers.

Particularly serious is the final comment of the Commission, that in the three years of inquiry work not only analysed the trafficking of toxic waste, but also the horrible waste crisis, caused by years of governmental inefficiency. “It is clear – says the Commission in the report – that the system has been designed for building a profit-making machine, and surely not for solving problems; since the very solving of problems would have meant stopping the profiting that is assured out of the managing of waste crisis. In this precise historical moment, the problem of waste in Campania is not a regional one, if it has ever been so, but rather a national one, one that is condemning Italy to the payment of EU sanctions, since the EU started a number of infringement procedures due to laws violation.”

The ongoing environmental disaster of Campania is, in the words of the Commission, “a historical phenomenon, that can be compared only to those phenomenon such as that of the seventeenth-century plague.”