Friday, August 24, 2012

Taranto, Puglia: the Ilva case

One of the most recurring topics in Italian news over the last few weeks has been the Ilva case.
The Ilva steelworks, one of the biggest in Europe, is the main source of employment in the city of Taranto (Puglia). On the other hand, it looks like it both hires and kills at the same time: the amount of pollution generated by the factory is huge. Recent government figures put the cancer death rate in the area at 15% above the national average, and lung cancer deaths at 30% higher. 6 year old kids have the lungs of inveterate smokers. 


Honestly, such a polluting and dangerous factory should have been reclaimed a long time ago, not to mention that it should have been built in a totally different way from the beginning. 
A legal action seemed obvious. So I have to admit I was really surprised that everyone got mad when a magistrate ordered to shut down the steelworks. Workers went on strikes and “occupied” Taranto, not allowing anyone to enter the city. I was even more surprise when the Environment Minister, Corrado Clini, criticised the magistrate decision’s as well. He claims that the shutdown of Ilva would cause great damage to the Italian economy. Even the governor of Puglia, Nichi Vendola, who is the leader of the leftist party “Left and Freedom” usually quite concerned about the environment, is not entirely backing the magistrates. He must be afraid to lose votes, if he does. 
Ok, so there’s who is worried about the economy and who is worried about voters. And what about the health of Italian citizens? 
The smartest idea would be to employ Ilva’s workers to clear up the furnaces and then re-open the steelworks once they are reclaimed. But since that’s the most sensible solution, it will probably never be chosen. For the moment, the steelwork is still operative, but production has highly decreased.
The Ilva case underlines an extremely sad reality: Italian workers are so terrified to lose their job that they prefer the risk of getting cancer, or even worse, risking their kids’ health, rather than back the decision to shut down the steelworks. It’s really, really depressing, to see how many things are wrong with society. Puglia is one the most beautiful Italian regions, but instead of safeguarding it, we destroy it. 
I read this joke on an Italian satiric website, “Spinoza”, that couldn’t be more appropriate:
Vendola: “We won’t let that Taranto people have to choose between cancer and poverty”. When they can have both.
For who might be interested, here is an article by The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/17/italy-ilva-steelworks-cancer-pollution