The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - March 25

The government's environmental record was at the centre of a political tug-of-war on Thursday, following the publication of a national report on the state of the country's ecological health. Environment Minister Altero Matteoli said the study showed dramatic progress in a variety of sectors but the centre-left opposition dismissed the results as propaganda ahead of next month's general elections.

Analysts with the Environmental Protection Agency, which produced the report, said overall conditions in Italy had improved radically since 1990, with positive developments in a variety of sectors. The report was particularly upbeat about carbon dioxide emissions, highlighting that Italian industries had cut their output of greenhouse gases by 23% since 1990. Furthermore, while transport still accounts for 61% of CO2 emissions, its output of other pollutants is down, with benzene emissions reduced by 78%, dust by 21% and lead eliminated entirely.

The report also pointed to a growing use of renewable energy sources, and praised a boom in public transport attributable to widespread investments. Ninety-three percent of Italian vehicles now meet European safety standards, while 103 new areas have been designated nature reserves since 2000, said the document.

Despite the opposition's accusations of whitewashing, Thursday's report pinpointed several areas of concern. Italy's carbon dioxide emissions in 2004 were up 11.6% on 1990 and there has also been a boom in the number of vehicles in the road, with an 82% rise in motorcycles and a 24% increase in cars.

National water usage was another sector highlighted by the report. Italians consume more water per head than the citizens of any other developed European country, it said, with Romans alone getting through 350 litres every day. The study attributed this to a lack of public awareness and poor management of resources.