Italian waste criminals "spread northwards"

Environmental group alleges "generalised environmental illegality" in Rome region

Illegal dumping of toxic waste and constant infringement of waste laws in the region of Lazio around Italy's capital city are damaging the environment, endangering public health and raising remediation costs, environmental group Legambiente alleged last week in Rome.

Illegal practices in waste management are spreading from the south to the centre of Italy, Legambiente said in a report. The group claims that waste management in Lazio is now characterised by "serious and generalised environmental illegality," and that many other environmental laws are also flouted.

According to Legambiente, there were 7,000 recorded infringements of waste laws in Lazio over the past three years. Hundreds of illegal landfill sites were identified, and nearly 250 seized by police.

"Eco-criminals" hire or buy abandoned warehouses and unused land to turn them into dumping sites. Their favourite target are small plots that they can easily dig up and cover again. "This is not only harmful to the environment, but also a health risk and a high cost to the community," said Maurizio Gubbiotti of Legambiente Lazio.

The group estimates that illegal waste disposal in Italy is worth some IL6,000bn (Ecu3bn). It says that the lucrative business is spreading to Lazio because it is situated between the more developed north of the country, where most industrial waste is produced, and the south where illegal waste disposal is already well organised.

"The number of [illegal site] seizures...testifies to the seriousness of these phenomena and to their persistence," Mr Gubbiotti went on. The environmental group insists that a coordinated strategy involving ordinary people, local administrators, the police and the judiciary is the only means to curbing environmental crime. Legambiente has also called for a reform of Italy's penal code to include crimes against the environment.

Legambiente, the police, the magistrates and Lazio's councillor for the environment agreed last week that a regional observatory on eco-criminality should be established to coordinate the work of all the parties involved in the fight against this crime. A plan was drawn up over a year ago, but has so far failed to attract funding.

Under Italian law, people or companies improperly disposing of dangerous waste can face up to two years in prison or fines of up to IL50m (Ecu25,800). Implementation of the penalties in practice remains a big problem, especially in areas where organised crime is strong.

Follow Up:
Legambiente, tel: +39 6 86 26 81

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