Residents of the Campania region, where the streets of many towns have been lined with uncollected trash for weeks, pay some of the highest rubbish taxes in Italy. At 264 euros a year, the average refuse tax in the region surrounding Naples is 60 euros higher than the national average, according to a study by consumer rights group Cittadinanzattiva.
In the town of Caserta, the ‘Tarsu’ tax is 393 euros, almost four times what residents pay in Reggio Calabria, on the toe of the Italian boot.
The figures were released as the Italian parliament prepared to approve an emergency decree aimed at solving the Campania trash crisis by identifying four new sites for dumps and giving state officials special powers to take decisive action. The trash disposal system in the Naples province practically ground to a halt earlier this year when the main dumps and treatment plants were declared full or overloaded.
The situation is critical in many towns in the Naples surrounding area. Firefighters are usually called out many times a day as angry residents set fire to the piles of uncollected rubbish.
Campania has suffered repeated trash emergencies in recent years but the current one has drawn international attention. Not too bad for a region and a country that are eager to attract international investment in order to promote development and growth. A few days ago, the U.S. Consulate in Naples issued a Warden Message, stating:
This Warden Message is being issued to alert U.S. citizens to the non-collection and disposal of garbage in the region of Campania and province of Naples. Americans in this area may be exposed to a possible health risk from piled up and burning garbage. This Warden Message expires on December 31, 2007.
Garbage collection has been disrupted in Naples and the region of Campania since May 2007, leading to a waste disposal emergency as large piles of trash lie uncollected for weeks. Some residents are setting trash piles on fire. U.S. citizens traveling to or through the area may encounter mounds of garbage, open fires with potentially toxic fumes, and/or sporadic public demonstrations by local residents attempting to block access to dumps.
Authorities generally do a good job of collecting garbage in the tourist zone comprising the port and central historic district, Pompeii, Sorrento, Positano, the Amalfi coast and the islands of Capri and Ischia. Health officials state that they have detected no outbreaks of infectious disease related to the garbage crisis and are disinfecting areas where garbage has piled up. Local physicians have indicated that airborne particles and fumes from these fires can aggravate respiratory problems. Depending on what is in the garbage, a fire could release toxic substances into the air.
Health officials are monitoring the situation closely. Americans in the area are encouraged to follow developments in the media.
As a response, Naples Mayor Rosa Russo Iervolino, 73, an old Christian Democrat elected in a center-left coalition, said she was outraged by the Warden Message, asking for apologies from the U.S. We are aware this is an inconvenient truth for our leftist politicians, always so perfect and in managing, but unfortunately for Mrs. Jervolino, the warning from the Consulate was a true and fair view of the situation. This is the great achievement of more than a decade years of leftist gubernatorate in Campania, led by the former mayor of Naples, Antonio Bassolino, from Democratici di Sinistra (Left Democrats). Last week the European Commission started infringement proceedings against Italy over the handling of waste in the region. It underlined the “risk of the spread of illnesses and of air, water and soil pollution”.
The limits of the official trash disposal system in Campania has helped encourage illegal operations, managed by organised crime groups such as the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia.