EU inspectors rap Italy as Naples drowns in trash

Mon Nov 22, 2010 1:31pm EST
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By Silvia Aloisi

ROME (Reuters) - EU inspectors touring the rubbish-strewn streets of Naples said on Monday that Italy had failed to make good on pledges to solve the city's chronic garbage crisis and warned EU funds would be frozen until it did.

More than 10,000 tones of trash have piled up in and around Italy's third biggest city as available dumps are near saturation point, and the only existing incinerator is still not working at full capacity.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government was forced to scrap plans for a new landfill near Naples without an alternative solution after a month-long protest by residents complaining an existing site had led to a foul stench and toxic waste being dumped near their houses.

Berlusconi pledged last month to solve the latest emergency within days, but TV images of Neapolitans holding their noses or covering their faces as they walk past shoulder-high mounds of trash provide stark evidence the crisis has grown worse.

"Two years on (from the latest crisis) the situation has not changed much. Garbage is in the streets, and there is no plan for separate waste collection and disposal," said Pia Bucella, head of a team of European Union inspectors visiting the city.

She said Brussels, which has already taken legal action to force Rome to find a long-term solution, would not unblock some 145 million euros ($199 million) of EU funds destined for garbage projects until a proper waste disposal system was in place.

"We are in favor of freeing up the EU funds, but only when a plan will be not only adopted but also implemented," she said.

With Berlusconi's struggling center-right government facing a no confidence motion next month which could trigger early elections, the lingering Naples rubbish crisis has become a serious embarrassment.   Continued...

<p>Pedestrians walk past a pile of garbage in downtown Naples, November 19, 2010. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca</p>