Environmental criminality is a threat to Italy's economy, and to the country's democratic system, the head the national anti-Mafia services Piero Luigi Vigna said last week. Mr Vigna was speaking at the launch of an annual review of eco-crime prepared by Legambiente, an environmental NGO. Italian environment minister Edo Ronchi was also present and stressed that the government was about to put forward a draft law to make the concept of environmental crime part of the penal code (ENDS Daily 23 March 1998). Based on information collected by regional police forces, Legambiente's survey of environmental crime reveals that over 30,000 environmental offences were committed in 1998, while the number of gangs involved in environmental crime rose from 53 in 1997 to 110 in 1998. Examples of activities included building without permits, illegal waste disposal and trafficking in protected animal species. More than a third of environmental offences took place in Campania, Calabria and Sicily, the three southern regions where the stranglehold of the Mafia is strongest, according to Legambiente. The group estimates that the total economic impact of these activities on Italy's economy is in the region of euros 11.5bn (IL22.3 trillion). Speaking of the 25,000 unauthorised buildings that were erected in Italy last year, environment minister Edo Ronchi pledged that his government would not "condone" their existence (which previous Italian governments did in 1984 and 1994). He also said that unauthorised buildings that caused considerable damage to the environment would be demolished.
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