Mixed review for Italian environment

Congested cities, rising consumption, more car use, overshadow improvements, says NGO

The Italian government has been urged to put urban congestion caused by private cars at the top of its agenda, after a report issued by environmental group Legambiente on Monday revealed that 81% of all journeys in Italy are made by car, and that the country hosts 54 cars per 100 inhabitants, the highest density in Europe. The report also found that overnight noise levels, mostly caused by traffic, are above World Health Organisation limits in 98% of Italy's urban areas.

Presenting its annual environmental report, Legambiente said that the picture was not entirely negative, with organic farming now practised on 441,000 hectares of land, compared with 70,000 in 1994, and protected areas increasing fourfold in the past decade, to reach 7% of the country.

But environmental pressure on cities has grown considerably, the group said, due to significant increases in water and electricity use, the amount of waste produced and the number of cars circulating. The report exposes Venice, one of Italy's main tourist attractions, as the least environmentally friendly city overall, with record consumption of water and electricity, and massive production of waste.

Meanwhile, Milan tops the car-use list, with 66 cars per 100 residents. The city is also high up on the list of water and electricity use, but only eighth for waste production, with 508 kilos per person, thanks to its advanced recycling policy.

Nation wide, waste recycling has gained considerable ground in the last ten years, to reach 10%. "This is still far from European levels, but a significant improvement," a spokesperson for Legambiente said. Cities in the less-developed south of Italy exert less pressure on the environment, but they are catching up fast, Legambiente has warned. In Naples, the number of cars increased by 36% between 1988 and 1995, while the residents of Messina, in Sicily, increased use of electricity and waste production by 47% between 1987 and 1997.

Follow Up:
Legambiente tel: +39 06 862 681.

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