Friday, May 15, 2009

Children's Role in Illegal Toxic Waste Dumping in Southern Italy

Roberto Saviano's novel on the Camorra crime family in Naples has been turned into the film "Gamorrah". One of the more disturbing scenes (and there were plenty to choose from), addresses the Comorra's handling of waste disposal in southern Italy. The Camorra has a monopoly of toxic waste dumping, which it has held for over 30 years. Understandably, the results have been devastating for the environment and health of the general population. Heavy metals, industrial waste, chemicals, and household garbage are often mixed together and buried in non-secure sites, leading to severe soil and air pollution. Farmlands are poisoned and the rates of cancer in the area have increased dramatically. What is startlingly about these facts is that the Camorra employs children to drive the waste in for a small price. These children do not complain about the health risks, which are unknown to them. Rather, they eagerly hop into the truck cabs, place cushions on the seat so they can see over the steering wheels, and drive into the quarries filled with toxic waste. The movie notes that if all of the waste managed by the clans were accumulated, it would create a 14,600 meter high mountain with the base measuring three hectares, which would be almost double the height of Mount Everest. As of 2007, the region still has no alternative dumping areas for waste, and no alternatives have been found.

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