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Italy Puts Hold on Naples Waste Plans After Violent Protests

Demonstrators protest against the opening of a new dump in Terzigno on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, near Naples, 24 October 2010

Police and residents battled again overnight on the outskirts of Naples where a waste disposal crisis has led to a new emergency for the Italian government.
After weeks of protests by residents, Italy's civil defense chief Guido Bertolaso, who was dispatched to the area to urgently deal with the crisis, says the opening of a new waste dump is on hold.

Bertolaso said the important thing today is certainly to ensure the safety of existing dumps. He added that future activities should be put on hold until the present situation has been normalized with the support of citizens. Then, he said, the future could be discussed.

Hundreds of tons of trash lie uncollected in the streets of Naples and surrounding areas and violence has been flaring every night for days.

Demonstrators in Terzigno, a small town near Naples, continue to torch vehicles, burn Italian flags, and hurl stones and firecrackers at police to protest the stench and filth at a local dump and the government plan to open a new one in the Vesuvius National Park.

One resident said it was a contradiction in terms that in the Vesuvius National Park, on one side, you see busloads of tourists and, on the other, busloads of trash.

Organized crime, inefficiency and political incompetence are being blamed for a situation that appears to be out of control.

Demonstrations are being held on a daily basis. This protester says that, at this point, the only hope is the European community.

The European Commission has warned Italy it may face sanctions if the trash problem in the Naples area is not resolved.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has vowed to bring the situation under control in 10 days. He has denied suggestions that his resolution of a similar crisis in 2008 was not permanent and lasting, blaming local authorities for failing to follow through on government plans.