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Sardinia – A military poisoned land that NATO forgot! A toxic waste dump story!

“My daughter died because of the thorium and depleted uranium. She’d regularly visit her in-laws in the Salto di Quirra. Once, on the drive back from there, a missile exploded in a quarry nearby, raising a huge cloud of yellow dust that got in the car. For days after that, she’d wash her hair but the dust would not go away. That’s how she got leukaemia. She died, her brother in law died, her son got sick – the only one who survived. It took the doctors 16 months from the time of her death to provide us with her medical records. After her body and that of her brother in law were exhumed, I have finally had confirmation of my doubts.”

Screenshot from 2014-06-04 11:19:42

http://blogs.essex.ac.uk/hrc/2014/06/02/the-sardinian-minority-and-quirra-syndrome/

Filed under: Human Rights — Daragh Murray @ 2.10 pm

By Claudia Tavani

“The military bases are Europe’s dump place: they killed the territory, they killed the people. They are causing an extermination by leukaemia.” –  Mariella Cao, President, Comitato Gettiamo le Basi.

Sardinia, an Autonomous Region of Italy, is the second largest island of the Mediterranean. Although it is scarcely populated, with roughly 1.7 million inhabitants, it is host to 60% of Italy’s military lands, comprising a total of 24,000 hectares. This land is used by the military for live fire exercises and weapons testing, with activity taking place in 3 main areas: Quirra (which is host to the “Poligono missilistico sperimentale Interforze Salto di Quirra” (PISQ), the biggest scientific military base in Europe), Capo Teulada and Capo Frasca.

Despite NATO regulations requiring that after each experiment areas are cleaned to eliminate contamination, this is not taking place. Italian laws acknowledge the economic and social impact of the experiments on populations involved and call for an equal distribution of scientific military bases on the national territory. Yet, as demonstrated by the percentage of land used, the impact of the experiments is markedly higher in Sardinia than elsewhere in Italy. It is suspected that these tests are having an adverse health impact on the local population, and recently, the term “Quirra Syndrome” has been used to refer to the increase in deaths and diseases now affecting a large number of people and animals living in areas used by NATO forces to run scientific experiments.

The PISQ is built in a scarcely populated area, used by local sheperds to graze their sheep, as agreed in a contract with the military. Analysis run by the Azienda Sanitaria Locale (ASL, the State medical and veterinary authority) and subsequently leaked to the press shows a clear link between the deaths and deformities registered in animals and the military experiments. Medical investigations also indicate a clear link between the experiments and the high incidence of leukaemia and other tumours among local shepherds and their families. Out of less than 150 inhabitants, lymphoma and leukaemia have killed 21 in the Quirra area. Davide Utzeri, a resident of San Vito, in the Quirra area, interviewed by Marco Corrias recalls:

 “My daughter died because of the thorium and depleted uranium. She’d regularly visit her in-laws in the Salto di Quirra. Once, on the drive back from there, a missile exploded in a quarry nearby, raising a huge cloud of yellow dust that got in the car. For days after that, she’d wash her hair but the dust would not go away. That’s how she got leukaemia. She died, her brother in law died, her son got sick – the only one who survived. It took the doctors 16 months from the time of her death to provide us with her medical records. After her body and that of her brother in law were exhumed, I have finally had confirmation of my doubts.”

Research begun by ASL in 2010 shows that 65% of shepherds working within 2.7km of the shooting range of the PISQ and 30% of those having flocks in the military area of the plateau have contracted a tumor, confirming a serious health concern that continues to be denied by the authorities.

The publicity to the case given by the local press and the Committee Gettiamo le Basi (an organisation whose goal is the demilitarisation of Sardinia, and the protection of its environment and the health of the Sardinian minority) led the Public Attorney Mr. Domenico Fiordalisi to start an investigation in January 2011 (there had been no reaction to requests for investigation up until this point). This investigation sought to exhume the bodies of shepherds in the area for further analysis and as an interim measure the grazing of animals in polluted areas was prohibited. According to this investigation, out of 167 suspect deaths in the area, at least 100 can be linked to the military experiments. In 2013, it was also discovered that toxic waste was illegally being disposed of in the land where animals were taken to pasture by local shepherds. A 2013 study (Air Pollution and Cancer)by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organisation underlines the link between cancer and the presence of polluting agents.

The local inhabitants initially protested against the prohibition on grazing of animals, as this left already impoverished shepherds with no source of income. However, consequent to the initial investigations by the Public Attorney, the inhabitants of the area have no more doubts about the responsibility of the State and the military for the deaths and illnesses and have started a civil action.

Concurrent to the civil measures being undertaken Gettiamo le Basi has forwarded a report and a number of supporting documents to the European Parliament, with the aim of bringing the issue to the EU forum and of demanding that the EU take responsibility for investigating the Quirra Syndrome and its impact on the health of Sardinians and for its role and the role of its members in what it calls the ‘genocide’ of the Sardinian people, since EU and NATO members also benefit from the use of the military bases.

Having viewed the reports, and monitored the situation and recent developments I would argue that a number of the rights of the Sardinian minority have been violated, first and foremost the right to health and the right to life, but also the right to enjoy their own culture and follow a traditional lifestyle and the right to receive information. Investigations are currently ongoing to assess the extent of the environmental damage, and on 18 November 2013 the Court of Lanusei asked for an adjournment, to allow the appointed expert to conduct further research in the area (see here). So far, twenty persons are under investigation, for allegedly allowing en environmental disaster, and for allegedly contributing to the use of dangerous armaments, and the illegal disposal of dangerous toxic waste. Among them, there are high officers of the Italian army and the former mayor of Perdasdefogu. Although investigations are ongoing, I cannot feel optimistic for a swift trial, given how long these normally take in Italy and due to the continuous adjournments in order to allow more investigations. It almost seems that calling for more investigations is a tactic to make sure that the trials do not take place. Meantime, Sardinians are beginning to accetp the existence of the Quirra syndrome as a normal part of life. Ironically, as Gettiamo le Basi points out, the basis of Teulada and Quirra are currently being strengthened.

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the author(s) alone. 

June 4, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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