Pripyat, province of Naples. This, the one of a ghost town, seems to be the message you are supposed to get from the hype going on in Italy lately. As usual, in Italy it’s always hard to distinguish between reality and conspiracy theories. This article has no arrogance of being able to solve the eternal dilemma, but it’s just the point of view of an expat Neapolitan still in love with his City.
What I can assure beyond every reasonable doubt is that the surroundings of my city have been filled with any possible poison for at least the last 30 years. In the countryside around Naples, you can easily find industrial solvents and ashes, scrap paints, asbestos and nuclear muds happily mixed with worn tyres and rubbish of every sort. Not bad for a city that has a poor industrialization level in a country that banned nuclear power plants in 1987. This can only mean that the biggest part of the wastes are coming from other cities and European countries. Some companies have just chosen the cheap way. Instead of paying for expensive disposal services for their industrial wastes, they have paid organized crime to truck it and “lose” them somewhere in the South.
Every single hole in the ground, every drain, every lake, every plot of land and sea has a story to tell. I can recall seeing mountains which look made out of albestos on the side of highways, waking up in the morning with my head exploding and being unable to breathe because someone has been burning god-knows-what all night long. Burning everything is the ultimate solution when the illegal landfill is too full to accept other wastes. A couple of days ago I read that also Lago d’Averno, one of the most enchanting places I’ve ever seen, just hundred meters from my old house, has been found full of toxic wastes, paying its crime of being deep enough to accept barrels.
Ancient Romans used to call this area “Campania Felix”, Happy Campania, because of an incredibly fertile land and a sea full of fishes. Campania Felix is currently providing leukemia and various kinds of tumors, let alone allergies and headaches. The local food industry is obviously at stake. People will no longer eat pizza or mozzarella without asking themselves some questions. There are no official numbers, but the incidence rate of tumors is up to three times the national average. What I can tell you is that everyone of us has a young relative or a baby fighting for life in his/her family. Everyone of us lives with a bomb inside their bodies ready to explode, because the ultimate disposal place is our bodies. No one of us knows of much time we have left with the people we love.
There are not even official studies about such a disaster. The only one is a research conducted by NATO in 2009 to evaluate the conditions of life of its soldiers living in the province of Naples. Even if it has no statistical value, since it examines air, water and soil only were soldiers live, the general recommendations include not using tap water for cooking or washing teeth and avoiding living in some areas. NATO soldiers are not considered at risk only because they spend less than 6 years in the area. Italian Ministry of Health has never created a dedicated research on tumors incidence in Campania, even if it is clear to see something is wrong there.
On November 16th the streets of Naples were invaded by 100,000 peaceful but angry protesters (only 30,000 officially) asking for the truth about their land, showing pictures of deceased relatives, blaming their politicians for what happened and asking for a recovery of their land. The hype started after mass media published the declarations of the “pentito” Carmine Schiavone, who declared all you can read in this article in 1997. His allegations have been kept secret until a few days ago, as usual in Italy.
I cannot tell you if a recovery will ever be possible. What I am asking myself is where Neapolitans have been for the last 30 years, including the guy that is writing this article. Our politicians are democratically elected to represent us. To represent a population that chose to look to the other side too many times, that chose to stay silent in front of a disaster happening after their very eyes and that exploited organized crime when it came to receiving personal benefits. We are all to blame. Sadly enough, Nola, one of the most polluted municipalities close to Naples, gave birth to Giordano Bruno. He chose to be burnt at the stake by the Inquisition not to disavow his revolutionary ideas, including the one that Earth was revolving around the Sun.
I would like to close this article with a lighter and more AEGEEan note. Naples is still a marvelous place to visit and every single AEGEEan should visit it. Nothing will happen to you if you only spend a couple of weeks there, except meeting great people and having one of the best times of your life. A united Italy and a united Europe have meant to Neapolitans only the freedom to receive Northern Italian and European wastes. AEGEE can play its little role in demonstrating that there is something else out there.
Written by Claudio Armandi, AEGEE-Napoli
For further reading: