In the name of a polluted People, in Taranto started the maxi-trial on ILVA poisons. A case against an environmental disaster, but also against the political disaster which has allowed it. Because in Taranto they have been polluting knowing that they were polluting since the 60’s, when the great steelworks was built in a natural reserve where children with asthma were cured.
At present, the air in that area kills children. According to the National Institute of Health, between the years 2003 to 2009 there were twice as many cases of leukaemia among minors in Taranto as in the rest of Italy. And four leukemic new-borns out of 10 do not survive their first year of life. Those born in Taranto, be they adults or children, die more often. To be more precise, 10% more, with a record growth of stomach, liver, breast and uterus tumors.
It was clear from the very beginning that the steelworks did no good to anyone. Cheese analyzed in 1966 was already full of dioxin. The same is true for mothers’s milk in that area.
The measures taken by the past mayors of Taranto had been ridiculous, such as the one which prohibited children play in the streets of the Tamburi district. A slap in the face of intelligence. With a bit more of perversion, he could have prohibited pregnancies all together. But the big steelworks had to keep working anyway, without spending a penny to limit its pollution, using jobs to blackmail people: disregarding the survival of the workers and of the entire population.
And this is what happened, with the permission of all the ministries of the environment and with the silent consent of both right-wing and left-wing presidents of the Puglia Region. Even Nichi Vendola was caught as he flirted on the phone with Girolamo Archina, the spokesman of Riva, the family which owns ILVA. Whom he asked respectfully to let the big boss know that the President of the Region, if he should ever need him, had never stepped back. Despite the name of his party, Left, Ecology and Freedom.
But the issue is not the left or the right wing: the so-called “Archina system'” had contacts with all the political forces, at all levels. Among the papers of the investigation there is a letter which dates back to 2010. It shows the type of requests made by Emilio Riva, the patron, in this case directly to Pierluigi Bersani, the recipient of the letter. The president of the group asks explicitly the then Secretary of the Democratic Party to defend the steelworks and the jobs it offers from the attacks of the environmentalists.
And he does so with the force of someone who has already offered to the Secretary of the Democratic Party a normal election contribution of 98thousand euros.
Make no mistake, it is not crime. But a party leader should know that not all contributions are disinterested and not all money has no smell.
If the problem had been left in the hands of politics, nothing would have ever changed in Taranto. As it happens all too often in this country, the judiciary had to intervene. In July 2012, the Court of Taranto sequesters the first areas of the establishment, with an order which charges ILVA and its owners with “dispersion of hazardous substances into the environment” causing “disease and death while being aware and willing to do so… for profit”. Begins a tug-of-war with the governments: Monti, Letta and Renzi use decrees to reopen whatever the judges close by law.
Conspiracy, environmental disaster, poisoning of food substances and corruption: those are the charges with which Emilio Riva, who died a year ago, and his son Nicholas end up in prison. While the other son, Fabio, had remained in absconding in London, till last summer. Now the two Riva heirs are on trial, together with 45 other defendants, including the former governor Vendola and the mayor of Taranto Ippazio Stefano.
But whereas the case moves its first steps, modernization remains an open question. The renovation of ILVA plants was supposed to be completed by last July 30. Perhaps the great steelworks keeps polluting, perhaps not. The ministry of the environment keeps silent. For the inhabitants of Taranto, the workers of the steel industry and their families deprived of their future, the dilemma is still the same: work or life?