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PM attempts to tackle Naples trash crisis

  • Story Highlights
  • Prime Minister Romano Prodi holds emergency meetings over trash problems
  • Prodi forced to act after army called to help clear rubbish piles around Naples
  • City collectors stopped work on December 21 because dumps are full
  • Residents in a city suburb set up roadblocks in protest at dump reopening
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ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Italy's prime minister held emergency meetings on Monday to discuss the growing garbage problem in Naples, where more than two weeks of closed dumps and uncollected garbage has led to mountains of trash across the city.

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Collectors stopped picking up rubbish on December 21, saying that dumps are full.

The garbage problem has become so bad that Neapolitan residents have started burning their waste, leading to noxious fumes permeating the air in the southern Italian coastal city.

On Monday, the government called on the army to help with emergency trash collection for the second time in a year.

Bags of rotting, uncollected waste now line city streets and sit in alleys beneath residential apartment blocks. In some places, the piles of trash tower over the cars driving past.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi met with the interior and environment ministers in Rome after President Giorgio Napolitano, who is from Naples, said he was alarmed by the crisis.

The latest problems began on December 31, when the government closed one of the area's two working dumps. Gian Francesco Raiano, a spokesman for the government's "garbage crisis administrator," said the dump was closed at the request of residents.

That left only one working dump, in the town of Serre, which is able to accept only 2,000 tons of trash a day. Raiano said that was the reason trash started piling up on the streets.

Authorities are hoping to alleviate the problem when they reopen a long-closed dump in the town of Pianura, near Naples, by the end of this week.

The government announced on December 30 that it planned to reopen Pianura, and the decision immediately sparked protests by nearby residents. They blocked roads to stop trucks from entering the site to prepare to open it after 12 years out of commission, and there were scuffles as police tried to move protesters away.

Problems with Naples' garbage have been around in some form for 14 years, when Italian authorities first declared the situation an emergency.

Complicating the issue is the involvement of organized crime, which has long controlled the region's waste business. The Camorra, as the mafia is known in Naples, controls both dumps and garbage trucks, making the problem enormously difficult for the government to solve.

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Forty dumping sites have operated in the Campania region over the past 30 years, but most have been closed for various reasons, including criminal investigations related to the Camorra. Residents' protests, over-saturation, and lack of proper equipment were other factors.

Italian media have cited statistics saying that Naples produces 1.6 million tons of garbage a year, and that the government has spent 1.8 billion euros ($2.7 billion) over the past 14 years to deal with the problem. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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