Naples: the Garbage War
Alessandro Di Rienzo - 10/01/2008
In a city where people would rather chat from a window or balcony, where mimicry outclasses speech, perhaps they can also live with their streets invaded by garbage. Otherwise how do you explain an “emergency”, defined and tackled as such by government, which has been lasting fourteen years? Waste disposal should be managed by the formal institutions or better, by the public bodies that control the territory. In Campania everything, including waste disposal, is managed by a formal establishment, the Camorra, which is much better organised than government. Unfortunately, in managing waste the Camorra has never taken into consideration the environmental impact it caused. Receptive only to immediate profit, it ignores all other consequences. So the Camorra has poisoned Napoli’s earth and its eco-system, by depositing dioxin in the ground, therefore contaminating the agricultural products grown there and exterminating entire flocks of sheep. Neapolitans from their part have become regular visitors of the oncology departments of the South of the country; and Naples, thanks to the negligence of the formal institutions, has become the terminal of Italy’s toxic waste.
Today, the small community of a small neighbourhood of Naples, Pianura, has reacted to the decision of re-opening a dump on its ground, closed in 1994 and which was operative for forty years. “This valley – they voice– is still dealing with the gases produced by so much waste, the earth has dropped down twenty metres and is just starting to breathe again”. If you walk on it you can feel how loose the ground is. When walking around the acid grass, you can stumble into methane smoke-holes or other biogases and a sharp smell gives off into the air. “Down there – they explain – they buried entire contaminated trucks, which were so polluted they weren’t even disassembled. The waste products of the steel plants that were discontinued by the Italsider of Bagnoli rest here, underground. Even a poor whale which went to die on the beach of Licola is buried here”. The citizens of Pianura would wish for a development made of natural parks and possibly uncontaminated Falanghina, the wine which this earth donated to men and women. Pianura was part of the Magna Graecia, and the elite of the Roman Empire spent its holidays amongst these vineyards. The formal institutions made them believe that Pianura deserved a different fate, away from garbage. On 27 May 2004, it was designated as “C level Protected Area of Park Systems”, a valley surrounded by the Metropolitan Park of the Hills of Naples and the Regional Park of the Flegreian Fields. No more dumps could be built here.
But an “emergency” is an emergency. To hell with all the plans made and discussed. To hell with those who in the meantime had opened a bed and breakfast and will never see a customer again, or those who were planning to establish a scientific pole. An emergency grants special powers and can freely dispose of all the police forces, which in Italy are: police, carabinieri, finance police and forest guards, including the newborn local police. Having special powers also means avoiding to carry out the necessary analyses of environmental impact, to refer to the CNR (the National Council of Research), to discuss compensations and the fate of the area with the local communities. The waste emergency in Campania is 14 years old and according to the Italian law reaching that age entails being liable to prosecution.
The citizens of this community have been protesting for a week, since the dreaded announcement of re-opening the dump. Their vigil is preventing the caterpillars and the garbage trucks to enter the valley. Entire families are irremovable, young people give fire to the accumulated garbage to create fire barricades. These photos which are going around the world could give reminiscences to a nostalgic of the first Intifada.
At the vigil, as for the whole city drowned in garbage, mimicry still wins over speech. The DNA of these people is drenched in this alphabet. Nose, mouth, eyes, frowning eyebrows, forehead, ears, shoulders, neck, everything is connected to the finger’s movements. Mouths are fastened, so as to limit breath to survival, and nostrils are shut to avoid them from being overwhelmed by the nauseating smell of garbage.
But today the formal institution, which doesn’t know where to put the garbage, sends them the army to make them be quiet. So the lost faces of these youngsters who before were asking themselves what they were doing in Nassirya, now are probably asking what they are doing in Naples.