The story

The garbage crisis in Naples encompasses the worst Italian clichés, and in particular those of the southern part of this lovely peninsula: mismanagement, political interference, mafia profiteering and the ability of those responsible to deflect the attention and the blame elsewhere.

There is a popular saying here that roughly goes like this: everybody is competent enough (to find a solution) but nobody is responsible (for actually carrying it out).

In many parts of the world waste disposal is a business -- and usually it is a good business. Garbage can be transformed into various sources of energy and then sold for a profit. In Naples, garbage is also good business, but in the sense that millions, if not billions, of euros have been wasted -- and nobody really knows how.

The problem is as old and ugly as rotten trash. The region's dumps reached full capacity more than a decade ago, and since then a state of emergency has been declared every year. Eight different commissioners have been appointed, but they have all failed to solve the problem. State of emergency means government money: ?1.8 billion (more than $2.5 billion) in emergency funds have been devolved to deal with the problem.

It is still difficult to find out where or how that money has been spent. Incinerators that were supposed to be built were never finished, either because the companies in charge of constructing them could not finish the job, or else because magistrates stopped the work, pending ongoing criminal investigations into alleged mafia involvement. Read full article »

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