Plans to build a landfill site close to Italy’s largest airport have triggered an outcry among local residents and sparked a political row, with one of the country’s governing parties under attack for backtracking on its environmental promises.
Rome’s mayor, Virginia Raggi, who is from the Five Star Movement (M5S), the party governing the city and ruling nationally alongside the Democratic party (PD), reached an agreement with Nicola Zingaretti, president of the Lazio region and the PD leader, on New Year’s Eve for the landfill to be built within the next 18 months. The proposed site is Monte Carnevale, in Valle Galeria, an area that hosted Malagrotta, a rubbish dump that was closed in 2013 after failing to meet EU standards.
Rome authorities have been struggling with waste disposal ever since Malagrotta, which served the Italian capital for three decades, was shut down, and Raggi has been under pressure from Zingaretti to identify an alternative site.
The announcement sparked an immediate protest by dozens of local residents on Tuesday night, and a major demonstration has been arranged for 11 January. “There will be war,” protesters told the newspaper Il Messaggero.
Esterino Montino, the mayor of Fiumicino, wrote on Facebook: “It seems crazy to me to open a waste plant in an area already so battered.”
Maurizio Veloccia, a Rome politician with the PD, said: “Choosing a site not far from Malagrotta is nothing short of disconcerting. When the Malagrotta landfill was closed, we imagined redevelopment in the area. This choice takes us back six years and I don’t think it will be so easily accepted by citizens who endured the landfill site for 30 years.”
The decision has also further divided M5S, which targeted Malagrotta in its campaigning before European elections in 2014. An investigation is still underway into whether the landfill site damaged the health of people living nearby.
“It’s a shameful choice in an area that was already devastated and never adequately reclaimed following the closure of Malagrotta,” said Stefano Vignaroli, president of the Ecomafie parliamentary commission and an M5S member.
Giacomo Giujusa, another M5S member, said: “Raggi and Zingaretti want to go down in history, too bad they will be remembered for opening a new Malagrotta next to Malagrotta.”
Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League, which is striving to oust M5S in the next Rome mayoral elections in 2021, also joined in the criticisms. “No to new landfills on the lives of citizens,” he said.
Rome has had several emergencies in recent years due to waste collection inefficiencies and a lack of processing plants. The situation was so bad in June and July of last year that doctors warned of the danger to health from piles of rubbish amid soaring temperatures.
Demand for pest control services in apartment blocks in the capital also boomed last summer as rats, cockroaches and other insects infiltrated buildings in areas, mostly beyond the centre, where rubbish had been piled up on the streets for days.