Saturday 15 December 2001
In a significant move, Italy recently declared a state of environmental emergency in Venice , Milan and Messina. The move displays the urgency of the authorities to tackle the deteriorating environmental conditions in the country.
"Extraordinary measures are needed because of the high levels of pollution," says Federica Cingolani, the environment ministry press secretary, and adds: "The state of emergency could last a year, but it will be up to local officials to decide."
It is expected that the Italian environment ministry's recent declaration would pave the way for Parliament to nominate local commissioners, who can draw up and implement extraordinary measures to combat pollution. These would include closing certain areas to boat or road traffic, charging tolls or imposing fines.
This is the first time that the administration has taken such a tough step. The ministry's decision was prompted by the growing boat traffic in the world-famous waterways of Venice coupled with the rising air pollution from heavy road traffic, raising the fear of health hazards in the Sicilian city of Messina and the industrial hub of Milan.
In Venice , water pollution is at an all-time high. Besides, the ripples caused by boats are eroding historic buildings in the city. The European Court of Justice also recently found that Italy failed to fully identify and monitor bodies of water subject to nitrate pollution from livestock farming.