mercoledì 23 gennaio 2008

Garbage City (La città dell'immondizia)

Dal Wall Street Journal on line e per gli amici che conoscono l'inglese

Nobody knows how much garbage has been rotting in the streets of Naples for the past several weeks. It is several meters high in some places, and in total may be up to tens of thousands of tons. Naples has always been a doomed city (it is only a matter of time before Vesuvius erupts again), and the current crisis has provoked predictably grim headlines, such as "Naples Beneath an Eruption of Garbage."

The first "garbage crisis" was proclaimed 14 years ago, and a series of special commissioners has accomplished nothing. Corrupt and incompetent officials have made deals with local Mafiosi that guarantee maximum profits and payoffs and minimum help for the people and their land. Ever since the end of World War II, generations of journalists and intellectuals blamed such practices on the corrupt right-wing governments in Rome and Naples. But the left has proven even worse.

Naples and Campania have been in the hands of the left -- notably the colorful Campania president Antonio Bassolino -- for a good two decades now, while Romano Prodi leads a center-left government in Rome. Corruption and collaboration with the mob is rampant: The transcript of a three-year-old investigation showed that one of Mr. Bassolino's cronies paid himself 40,000 euros a year as a consultant to the consortium in charge of garbage treatment.

The garbage problems began in the 1980s, when the Florence incinerator broke down, leaving the Tuscan government in a jam. The Neapolitan Mafia, the camorra, solved it. They took the untreated waste to the south, and dumped it in caves, landfills, streams, lakes and craters. When local authorities raised questions about dangerous waste, the camorra created a network of laboratories to issue phony documents declaring toxic waste to be harmless. This enabled them to charge maximum fees for collection and minimal fees for disposal. Business boomed.

Business was so good that the network spread outside Italy. Tons of garbage were driven from the Swiss Red Cross to remote southern villages; in a single cave the authorities found the equivalent of 28,000 truckloads of waste. In the polluted areas the cancer rate is four times the national average, entire herds of cattle have had to be slaughtered, and many bodies of water have been declared off limits for public use.

One particularly dreadful example of the destruction of the people and the land is the town of Pianura, in a volcanic area where the magma bubbles just below the surface. A crater was used as an illegal dump and for years, all manner of filth simmered without any oversight from the authorities. It's been closed, but too late: The land and the people have been poisoned, which is why a citizens' group stands guard at the dump around the clock, fearing that it might be reopened.

There is no sign that the political class is inclined either to accept responsibility for the crisis, or to take effective measures to fix it. When 10,000 Neapolitans demanded the resignation of Mr. Bassolino and his cohorts, the politicians refused, because it would be "irresponsible" to abandon Naples at such a time.

Now, facing humiliating reportage all over Europe, and demonstrations demanding mass resignations, the government has sent the army into the city to carry out the filth. Ships are headed for the nearby islands of Sardegna and Sicily, with demonstrations already raging. But even if the mountains of trash disappear for the time being, the crisis will return because there's so much money in the business.

The criminal organizations' wealth is far greater than the government's, and their power can determine the outcome of most any election in the area. In recent years, 70 of the 92 communes in the area have had their governments dissolved because of camorra involvement. The camorristi are by far the more efficient businessmen and managers, as well as the primary source of campaign funds, personal payoffs and harsh retribution for anyone who breaks the rules. In the worst days of the garbage crisis, the camorra's favorite neighborhoods in Naples had clean streets. The government was impotent; the mob delivered social services.

If the Italian Government really wanted to solve the Neapolitan crisis, it would have declared war on the mob and ordered the army to occupy the city. Any government that did that would earn gratitude and respect from the people, and give hope to the Neapolitans. But this actually happened under fascist rule, which of course makes it most unlikely that it will happen again today.

Short of such drastic measures, one can only hope that a new generation of Neapolitans finds the courage to reclaim their city from both Rome and the camorra. It's a long shot, but the history of Naples is full of miracles. You never know.

MICHAEL A. LEDEEN

2 commenti:

francesco ha detto...

Temo che questo autore sia alquanto leghista
Francesco

...a new generation of Neapolitans finds the courage to reclaim their city from both Rome and the camorra. It's a long shot, but the history of Naples is full of miracles. You never know.

VivaCampaniaViva ha detto...

L'autore dell'articolo non è leghista ma è un giornalista americano... :)