Ischia, emblem of the drama of illegal construction in Italy

Ischia, a tourist island in southern Italy where a landslide buried eleven people a week ago, is a victim of its beauty and climate, but also of massive and illegal urbanization, experts and politicians say.

Many had predicted the tragedy that occurred in Ischia, a paradise of thermal waters and turquoise beaches located in the Gulf of Naples, due to the irresponsible management of the territory.

“This has become a time bomb,” denounced the Italian section of the World Wide Fund for Nature Protection (WWF) shortly after the drama.

For defenders of the environment, the wild construction of houses without permission, many of them in areas of high hydrogeological risk, is one of the biggest causes of the tragedy along with climate change.

“It is hypocritical to mourn the victims while construction continues where it should not be,” the NGO criticized.

Even the largest organization in the agricultural sector, Coldiretti, pointed to excessive urbanization, both legal and illegal, as one of the factors that make the land incapable of absorbing large amounts of rainwater, as occurred in the Casamicciole Terme area. .

From Mount Epomeo, the highest on the island, came an avalanche of mud and water that fell on that town, burying the houses built in the highest area along with their inhabitants, including several children and a newborn.

Illegal constructions in Italy, built without permission, are a frequent phenomenon in a country with much of its territory at risk, which has been aggravated by climate change.

– High hydrogeological risk –

“The sad and widespread phenomenon of illegal construction is one of the causes of disasters, an issue that can no longer be avoided,” admitted the Minister of Civil Protection and Marine Policies, Nello Musumeci.

“49% of the territory of Ischia is classified as high or very high risk of landslides, with more than 13,000 people living in those areas,” acknowledged Environment Minister Gilberto Pichetto.

As the problem of landslides, landslides and landslides, even from a glacier, affects the entire peninsula, the authorities are studying a prevention program that includes structural interventions to guarantee the safety of the entire territory, a public works program that would be impressive .

According to the latest report from the Higher Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), 93.9% of Italian municipalities are at risk of landslides, floods or coastal erosion.

– Amnesties –

Given the multiplication of anarchic constructions, the most applied solution in Italy has been amnesties, a bureaucratic and complicated process whose response from the public administration takes years to arrive.

In Ischia alone, some 27,000 amnesty applications have been submitted in recent years. And when justice decides to demolish an illegal building, its occupants usually manage to avoid it, even resorting to children, the elderly and even the sick, since “the presence of minors justifies that the destruction be postponed”, declared Aldo De Chiara, a prosecutor from Naples. retired and specialized in the fight against illegal construction, quoted by the newspaper La Stampa.

For some islanders and several local mayors, the landslide was not caused by illegal construction but by the lack of maintenance of the territory and excessive deforestation.

“When there is a landslide in the north of Italy, we talk about climate change, when it is in the south, we talk about illegal construction,” Sergio Piro, in charge of a hotel in Casamicciola Terme, told AFP.

“The mountain section fell away because preventive works were not carried out, the drainage channels were not cleaned,” he said.

“I heard a great noise when the torrent of rocks and earth swept away the first houses,” said Piro, who stressed that the rest of the island of Ischia continues to function normally.



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Ischia, emblem of the drama of illegal construction in Italy