giovedì, novembre 10, 2005

Italy and the Eco-Mafia. Redux.

Still keeping on the subject of what we do with our toxic waste, I see that the proposed new EU bill regarding chemicals use in the EU, REACH, is progressing well at the moment. It is a very watered down version of the original proposal by Guido Sacconi, but surely a step in the right direction. I briefly touched on the problem of toxic waste disposal yesterday, with the discovery that the USA had disposed of its own vast arsenal of chemical weapons after WW2 by simply dumping everything overboard into the sea. The results of that massive dumping should be clear now, so why is there so much resistance from governments all around the world to actually put in real controls?

Here in Italy there has been a major waste disposal problem for many years. A problem that became very public here a couple of years ago, with protesters in Montecorvino Rovella, about 60km south-east of Naples, stopping trains to complain about the re-opening of a local waste landfill site. On the surface it might have seemed all very honourable and decent, but the groundswell of opinion was that they were really acting on behalf of the local Camorristi that had a great deal of interest in keeping the waste processing and disposal sites closed in favour of their own “facilities” which were on offer to the local communities, even bringing the wrath of the EU down when the EU issued a “Reasoned Opinion” over the waste disposal contracts awarded in Naples.

This has resulted in the wholly bizarre situation where domestic rubbish is hauled (by Camorristi approved hauliers, of course) as far as Germany for disposal, whilst toxic and nuclear waste is hauled all the way back down to southern Italy for its subsequent disposal. The toxic waste is “lost” in a wide variety of ways, from the more obvious methods such as digging a big hole and tipping it in, to giving it away to farmers for use as fertiliser. The nuclear waste is usually dumped at sea, allegedly, although there have been attempts to bury it in Basilicata (the most seismically active region in Italy).

Of course, the driving force is money, although it is always very short-term money. There seems to be no thought given for the welfare of future generations of children, whether they are just the children of local paesani or the children and grandchildren of the local don and his political allies. It is the final levelling, I suppose, although I doubt it is the kind of levelling that is in the mind of either the Camorristi nor the local politicians when they pat their bulging wallet with a knowing grin.

Italian landfill in action - in Germany.

mercoledì, novembre 09, 2005

Something Smells Bad...

It always amazes me to find how reading one newspaper article can lead into so many different areas. A case in point was my reading a piece in the New Zealand Herald about the dumping of chemical weapons by the USA off the coast of New Zealand after WW2. An amazing story when one considers how much fuss the USA have been making over supposed chemical weapons dumping in Iraq recently.

The article discusses the fact that the USA dumped its arsenal of unwanted mustard gas agent and Lewisite in unmarked sites off the coasts of almost every country it could get its ships near to, including Italy, France, the UK and the entire Pacific region as well, of course, as around its own shores. I don’t recall having heard much of an outcry from any other source though. Perhaps I’m just becoming more forgetful in my old age?

The worrying thing is that the US Military has chosen to not tell anyone about these weapons dumps though, in fact
New Zealand had to send their own team of researchers to the US National Archive in order to ferret out the information they have unearthed so far. Quite an achievement on their part given that the records for the years between 1944 and 1970 have seemingly “gone missing”. Quite an important "gone missing" period, I would say.

Then I saw that Italian national broadcaster, RAI, has undertaken an investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Iraq by the USA. What? The USA? Surely not! Of course, the USA didn’t use mustard gas or even Sarin in the pursuit of world peace in Iraq, it used a rather nifty little device called a “Willy Pete”. Sounds harmless enough, doesn’t it. What “Willie Pete” is, is a White Phosphorus illuminant that is designed to be used to “light up” an area for better surveillance purposes. What it actually DOES, however, is to burn in just the same way that Napalm burns when it touches skin and flesh.

For those of us with memory enough left to recall the invasion (oops! I mean liberation, don’t I!) of Iraq, our TV screens were full of images of what looked like fireworks raining down on the city, giving us a remarkably good view on the part of the city we were allowed to observe. Now we know that this firework display was a rain of terror for those poor people caught under it. Of course, illuminating the field of battle is allowed under the 1980 UN Treaty regarding the use of incendiary materials against civilians, as is the use of chemical weapons under the UN Treaty of 1997 (yes, I was surprised too). So “Willie Pete” is OK then. But – and this is a bloody great big BUT here, there is now evidence that the USA used a brand new form of good 'ole Napalm against the “enemy” in Iraq - Napalm MK77 has appeared on the scene and has already been used against all those terrorists in Iraq. It makes one wonder why the main objector to the 1997 Treaty against chemical weapons was the USA, doesn't it.

Thank god for America, eh?