Cargo boats laden with 500 tons of Neapolitan garbage steamed toward Sardinia on Thursday as the government worked to undo a weeks-long trash emergency that left heaps of waste piled up on the streets of Naples.
Premier Romano Prodi had invited Italian regions to accept some of the trash from Naples and its surrounding Campania region as part of the short- and long-term measures he announced earlier this week.
The island region of Sardinia, whose Emerald Coast is a favorite of the European jet-set, agreed. The regional government said it was awaiting the arrival of 500 tons of refuse on Thursday and could accept more in the coming days.
"The immediate willingness of our region (to accept the trash) is allowing authorities to show the first results in the streets of Naples, and at the same time, to plan for the disposal of a good part of the garbage from the areas around Campania," the top regional environment official, Cicito Morittu, said in a statement.
Nevertheless, there were scattered protests by residents and political opponents of the regional government, at Sardinian ports and near a waste disposal plant where the trash is believed to be going, the ANSA news agency reported.
In the latest crisis, collectors stopped picking up garbage in Naples and Campania before Christmas because there was no more room for the trash at dumps. The region has long been plagued by garbage crises: Dumps are packed to overflowing, and local communities have blocked efforts to build new ones, citing health risks
Officials and residents say the crises stem from the Neapolitan mafia's control of garbage disposal and the government's inability to fight it or guarantee safe waste treatment. As a result, residents routinely block attempts to open dumps, often resorting to violence.
On Thursday, the Interior Ministry warned that it was intensifying its investigation to identify violent protesters who clashed with police and firefighters in recent days in a bid to prevent the Pianura dump near Naples from reopening.
In a statement issued after a high-level meeting with law enforcement agencies, the ministry said that rapid-response police patrols would be intensified to cope with any future violence by protesters.