Naples: Imam hopeful Berlusconi can end rubbish crisis

With summer temperatures hitting the southern city of Naples, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi needs urgently to solve the months-long garbage crisis and prevent the outbreak of disease there, its imam, Yasin Gentile, told Adnkronos International (AKI).

"We hope that Silvio Berlusconi's arrival in Naples can resolve this rubbish crisis because with the arrival of summer, there are fears of epidemics and a sanitary emergency in this city," said Gentile.

"We need someone to take on the responsibility of implementing measures to end the crisis.

"Unfortunately, we need more landfills in the city and its citizens need to understand this. No one wants them in their neighbourhood but then we end up with piles of garbage on the street," Gentile noted.

Separated waste collection is crucial to solving the city's waste problem, according to Gentile. He said the Naples Islamic Association has been informing its members on how to separate their household waste and has taken part in environmental rallies.

In his maiden speech to the Italian parliament last week, Berlusconi said solving Naples' chronic garbage emergency is one of the new conservative government's top three priorities.

Berlusconi said he would this week hold a cabinet meeting in Naples to address the refuse crisis that has gripped the city and surrounding areas for many months.

Despite the previous centre-left government's appointment in January of a Naples rubbish 'tsar', many thousands of tonnes of uncollected, rotting garbage have remained piled up on many streets. This had angered residents, sparking health fears and damaging the Campania region's agriculture and tourism sectors.

As recently as overnight on Sunday, and over the weekend, police reported no less than 36 incidents of irate Naples residents setting alight uncollected refuse, and staging roadblocks.

The president of Naples' Order of Medics, Giuseppe Scalera warned that health and hygiene conditions in the city "are at the limits of safety" and the government will from Tuesday deploy a medical 'guard' in the city and open a call-centre for citizens, the La Stampa daily reported.

Muslims attending the city's Islamic Centre are not talking about the problem much, according to Gentile, who is the first Italian convert to have graduated from the Islamic University of Medina in Saudi Arabia.

"The aren't any piles of garbage where we are and the rubbish is collected regularly. The illegal dumping of household items is more of a problem, and even the items people have dumped on the street are collected after a few days," Gentile said.

But in the outlying Boscoreale district where Gentile lives, "the situation is truly dramatic," he said.

"Residents have hidden the garbage bins to prevent rubbish piling up on the streets.

"Two areas of Boscoreale have been earmarked as mega-dumps - the carpark near the train station and another disused area belonging to the railways," Gentile explained.

"There are mountains of refuse in both areas that have been piled up for more than 20 days, but the rest of the town is clear," he said.

Naples' current rubbish emergency broke out last December, but the problem dates back over 15 years and has various causes.

These include the local Mafia's grip on waste collection and disposal, resistance from residents to new landfills and incinerators being built, bureacratic red tape and suspected corruption and incompetence by local officials.

Source: AKI (English)

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