Southern Italy’s once-great port city has suffered in recent times – mass unemployment, corruption issues and a waste crisis have all contributed to the cloud hanging over the city. Now with the COVID-19 pandemic and its inevitable aftermath, there is a chance for sustainable development and a truly green recovery. It is an opportunity it cannot afford to miss.
Walking down Naples’ Via Tito Angelini, looking over the city sprawling away towards the slopes of Mt Vesuvius and the waves of the Tyrrhenian Sea, you notice something – the streets are a little quieter, the water is a little bluer, and the air is that little bit cleaner. The city is taking a collective breath.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the environment is well documented, urban air quality across Europe has improved and emissions are down. In a city that has been blighted by pollution and poor air quality, the respite is welcome.
For Naples, the fight to maintain a healthy environment for its citizens has been a long, drawn out struggle. Most notably it was under the international spotlight during its 14-year ‘state-of-emergency’ due to the waste management crisis in the region. The waste situation has now improved (for the most part), but air and water quality have not.
Italy is failing on emissions
A report by the World Health Organisation has placed Naples behind only Milan and Turin as the European cities with the worst atmospheric pollution levels. COVID-19 may have hit the pause button on the region’s emissions, but it won’t last for long.
In a study conducted before the coronavirus pandemic it was revealed that just 3.86% of the city budget was being directed towards “Sustainable development and protection of the territory and the environment.” Compare that with other Italian cities such as Rome (16.3%) and Genoa (15%) and shortfalls in funding become clear.