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Eternally stinky city? Rome garbage crisis sparks health fears

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Landfills in flames and rats feasting on waste in the streets have sparked health fears in Rome, as doctors warn families to steer clear of disease-ridden curbside garbage and locals launch a disgusting dumpster contest online.

Crowds of summer tourists are forced to navigate overflowing bins in the stifling heat, as the pungent perfume of neglected garbage draws scavenging animals and the threat of disease to the Eternal City and locals fume over the city’s refuse management.

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Rome’s chief physician Antonio Magi has issued a “hygiene alert”, telling AFP this could be upgraded to a health warning, with disease spread through the faeces of insects and animals banqueting on rotting waste.

His warning prompted local prosecutors to open an investigation this week into the city’s refuse collection.

In the meantime, furious Rome residents have launched a contest on Twitter to find the most fetid dustbins.

Discarded pizza boxes or the remains of spaghetti lunches and fruit rinds draw opportunistic seagulls, rats and even wild boars to the streets of Rome, with wolves also spotted closer to the city’s outskirts than ever before.

AFP / Tiziana FABI The city lacks infrastructure: of its three main landfills, one has closed and the others were ravaged by fire

Adding to the indignation of Rome residents is the steep price they are paying for their garbage to rot in the streets.

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The city spent more than 597 euros ($670) per inhabitant on household waste treatment in 2017 — by far the highest in the country, ahead of Venice (353 euros) and Florence (266 euros), according to a report by the Openpolis Foundation.

But the city lacks infrastructure: of its three main landfills, one has closed and the others were ravaged by fire in recent months.

And two biological treatment sites have reduced their activities for maintenance work.

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– ‘Degradation and abandonment’ –

Some residents make matters worse by simply dumping their old mattresses, fridges and sofas next to garbage bins.

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But local Salvatore Orlando, 50, told AFP the council was entirely to blame.

“Of course it’s the mayor’s fault. You certainly can’t blame the citizens,” he said.

AFP / Tiziana FABI The Italian capital struggles with a renewed garbage emergency aggravated by the summer heat

“They produce waste, they have to throw it away, and the public services have to collect it. It’s simple. We pay taxes for it”.

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Rome’s mayor and the president of the Lazio region both assured Italy’s environment minister Tuesday that the crisis would be resolved “within 15 days”.

But to do so, more of the city’s 5,000 tons of daily waste will have to be sent for incineration elsewhere.

“Everyone complains about waste but no one wants an incinerator. Instead, we take the waste abroad, to Austria, to Germany!”, another aggrieved resident said, declining to give his name.

Even Pope Francis has commented on the decline, lamenting in June Rome’s “degradation and abandonment”.

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AFP / Tiziana FABI Even Pope Francis has commented on the decline, lamenting in June Rome’s “degradation and abandonment”

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right League, has jumped on the chance to use the crisis as a political weapon against mayor Virginia Raggi, who hails from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).

The stench and sticky pavements have given him ammunition ahead of the next municipal elections, scheduled for 2021.

But in a city where key sectors are riddled with inefficiency and corruption, residents will wonder whether Salvini has a magic recipe for resolving a situation that has stumped parties over the years across the political spectrum.

In the meantime, rubbish is just one more daily challenge in a city with countless potholes, trees that topple at the first gust of wind and buses that catch fire — if their engines start at all.

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‘The worst day of the presidency so far for Donald Trump’: Advisor to four presidents

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President Donald Trump has not had a worse day in office than he suffered on Friday, according to a top former White House advisor.

David Gergen served in the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. He was interviewed Friday night by CNN's Anderson Cooper.

"If you are looking to throw somebody under the bus, Gordon Sondland would probably be a prime candidate to be next in line to be thrown under the bus," Cooper said.

"I think the president will wait patiently to see what he says and then decide," Gergen replied.

He then offered his analysis of the situation.

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Chris Hayes breaks down the ‘busy day in the criminal chronicles of one President Donald J. Trump’

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MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes connected the dots between all of the bombshell news that was reported Friday in the impeachment hearings into President Donald Trump.

"Good God, today has been ten days and this week has been ten weeks," Hayes said. "And there are a million things happening at once."

"Just in the past couple of hours, for instance, we just got this incredibly incriminating and damning behind closed doors testimony from a U.S. foreign service officer that was still supposed to be kind of like the B-story today, the sideshow," he explained. "It's a guy who works in the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, a guy named David Holmes. He testified behind closed doors that he could hear president Trump talking on the phone to the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union who was an inaugural donor, and they were in a restaurant in Kiev and the president was shouting so loudly on the phone that [Gordon] Sondland had to hold the phone away from his ear because it was hurting his eardrum, so then everyone could hear."

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Trump ignored aides’ advice before first Ukraine call — and it destroyed his impeachment defense: report

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President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to himself as his own top advisor and a political "genius." But his interactions with Ukraine at the heart of the impeachment inquiry could demonstrate the limitations of such an approach to governing.

Friday's bombshell, behind-closed-door testimony from David Holmes has made White House aides unhappy, but the bad news for the administration did not stop there.

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