Italy. Ischia disaster reveals abusive constructions

Over three kilometers on Saturday, a mudslide descended from Mount Epomeo to Casamicciola Terme on the island of Ischia, opposite Naples. Two streets of this seaside town of 8,000 inhabitants were literally transformed into a river bed on November 26. The cause of the disaster was a landslide. This Monday morning, the toll was eight people dead, including a newborn. Many houses are destroyed. The government has declared a state of emergency. 160 firefighters are at work to search for the four people who are still missing.

« We must approve the law against the artificialization of the soil as soon as possible »


In a country with steep gradients like Italy, this mudslide will not be the last. These episodes are commonplace. Since the beginning of the year, Campania alone – the region of Naples where the tragedy took place – has experienced eighteen extreme climatic events. The question is rather: can we avoid building in areas at risk? On the island, one inhabitant out of two has filed an application to legalize construction without a building permit, ie 27,000 applications to be examined, including 3,506 in Casamicciola Terme.

« We must approve as soon as possible the law against the artificialization of the soil, which has been stopped for two legislatures, and to say « stop » to the logic of amnesties, reacted the environmentalist organization Legambiente by press release. For years, reforms have followed one another to regularize construction without a building permit. The latest is that of 2018, under the government of the demagogues and xenophobes of the 5 Star Movement (M5S) and the League. The then President of the Council Giuseppe Conte, now political leader of the M5S, defends himself by explaining that it was then a question of allowing reconstruction after the 2017 earthquake… The earthquakes of the 2016-2017 sequence are are however produced in the center of Italy.

Criticized by the Democratic Party (PD, social-liberal), the standard was then voted by Brothers of Italy, the party of the current president of the far-right Council, Giorgia Meloni. This did not prevent Environment Minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin, a member of Forza Italia, from declaring that “it would be enough to imprison the mayor and all those who allow any abusive construction to take place”.

An unmaintained water drainage excavation

More generally, in a country that experiences repeated earthquakes and floods that are increasing due to climate change, the question of bringing the territory up to standard often comes up. But arrangements are constantly put off until tomorrow. As a result, Legambiente points out, Italy spends an average of 1.48 billion euros each year to deal with disasters. 80% of this sum goes towards reparations; 20% for prevention.

It remains to be seen whether the message will be heard by the executive. This must return its copy before the end of the year and present a plan for adaptation to climate change. Italy is one of three countries in the European Union that have not yet established one.

In the case of Ischia, the issue of abusive constructions is not the only issue. Ordinarily, the water flows through a hollow where the current or the mud flows in the event of rain. This one appears to have not been properly maintained.


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