Hazardous waste disposal? Indeed, and in parks of supra local interest too!

Land protection in Italy and Europe is a rather ‘evasive’ issue. It is being tackled by institutional organizations, its limits are protected by strict legislation… But in the end it is always up to citizens to speak up and prevent any abnormal behaviour.

In 2014 Italy was fined tens of millions of euros by the EU (the sentence dates from 2007) for failing to meet their communal obligations related to waste and landfill management. For Italy, waste disposal and landfill management are a long-standing problem: Italy is perhaps an emblematic example for the relevant institutions’ lack of efficiency.

In the numerous landfills seized by the Court for illegal and irregular management, both urban and industrial waste leave a legacy of polluted groundwater, destroyed land and citizens’ health at high risk. Moreover, it is well known that large economic and non-economic means are being employed to “shape” laws and administrators. Similarly we know only local populations are able to find resources – human, economic and technical – to object to such public choices encouraged by tactical bureaucratic behaviour, and private if not mafia-related interests.

We should learn and value those very examples going in a different direction. These are people who meet up and watch over their land in order to get their identity back, take back their history and determine their own future. They do not merely act locally against critical issues such as industrial and mining activities and waste management; they also consider environmental concerns at global level.

In an area north of Milan, for years people have been fighting to save an area of 70 hectares worth of agricultural land between Casorezzo and Busto Garolfo (an area in Parco del Roccolo – a park of supra local interest). Landfill and excavation activities for hazardous waste disposal have been taking place for quite some time (around 300.000 m³, already in use), and now a new one, also for hazardous waste wide 500.000 m³ may be added (this involves lands from contaminated work sites, foundry lands, reclamation lands …). Moreover, a further 2 million m³ will be dug up and be used as an extension. This is all happening at a few hundred metres away from inhabited towns, and directly above groundwater, an issue already of concern.

Although citizens and 50 municipalities from the area north of Milan, and the municipalities of Magenta and Abbiategrasso, Milan City Council (ex Province of Milan) was in favour of the environmental impact assessment. However, following three hearings with representatives of the relevant communities, the Region signed a resolution opposing the project, by unanimity.

The only way to stop this further environmental massacre has been an appeal to the Regional Administrative Tribunal, which was supported by a detailed scientific report. Therefore, a discussion-table with the City of Milan was able to achieve the feasibility of a pilot project, which has a more present-day scientific methodology and foresees changing the previously used impact assessment.

Why are we mentioning this story?

  1. Because the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) although carried out by a University, analysed the situation from a technical point of view, whereas the scientific community has no longer been considering the environment to be merely geophysical support of human-induced activities, but also a complex system made up of different living communities, including man;
  2. In order to carry out an adaptable pilot project, and modify the norm to make it more coherent in terms of environmental protection by opening up the discussion-table to the Region.
  3. Citizens have proved to be the true protagonists in handling and programming their land. They were in charge of the appeal, and took part in all discussions. They used research, international scientific technicians, bore all costs, and created a specific act of crowdfunding. In other words, they proved to be willing and able to involve a high number of stakeholders.

This leaves us with two more questions:

  • Why is this being left to citizens and local populations?
  • Why are the administrative authorities in question not doing any work to protect their lands and future generations?

For more information about this and on how to send monetary contribution, please contact Luigi Dell’Arena: soundcooker@gmail.com