Summer 2011, in two hours a huge quantity of water invades the mountain surrounding the area of a little village on the coast of Lake Como, Brienno. An immense quantity of debris destroyed the village, Brienno is now a ghost town.
Brienno is an old Roman village. The Romans choose it for its springs and shores; Brienno became the residence for Roman Emperors and for the Generals on the northern side of the Empire.
The village remains a vestige of history; an old bridge survived thru time, 2000 years, and is still used by inhabitants to access the main square.
Unfortunately the landslide destroyed everything.
The bridge sunk in to the lake, and the church, built by Romans as a temple, was demolished by the fury of the landslide.
After the catastrophe, the Mayor and inhabitants of the village started a campaign to raise money to rebuild, but they had to face a nasty reality, Italian bureaucracy, corruption, technical mistakes and political interest.
Environmental groups, such as WWF and Greenpeace, in their zeal, neglected to make an inspection on site before pressuring the Italian government to pass laws preventing locals from clearing the forest of debris.
In Lombardia, as in the rest of Italy is forbidden, thanks to the pressure made by environmental groups to set fires or clean areas and forests form debris. These choices take the problems to a more dangerous level.
Inhabitants usually cleaned these areas. Now mountains communities are vanishing due to emigration, and forests are abandoned.
Result: there are no possibilities to preserve in a proper way these sites without an official action.
Most of the areas hit by neglect are the highest ones, on the pick of the mountain, the access to these parts are hard and difficult, no cars or trucks are be able to enter to transport debris.
To forbid setting fires in any territory consider at high risk, cause an accumulation of debris, the results is a natural damage formed by layers of leafs, old brunches and stones, at this point the area become a time-bomb ready to explode any time. All it takes is 200 ml of water in two hours time and all the debris, stones, and old brunches are pushed down into the valley creating highly dangerous landslides.
Weirdly I didn’t receive any kind of interesting answers to my mails sent to WWF Italy, Greenpeace Italia or Radicali, the party led by Marco Pannella.
The only answer I received was: we work in the interest of the environment.
To make it worse economical interests, so far Italy was divided in two main administrations Province and Regioni, these two organs were directly under the orders of the Italian government.
Most of the time these official “bureaux” are directed by minority groups of politicians controlled by the main secretary of their party.
So far in Italy to classify a geographical area, as a "natural disaster area” is very simple, no matter how many property damages there are, is more important to know the exact number of deaths.
In the case of Brienno, fortunately there were no deaths. Automatically the Regione refused the status of "natural disaster" and the odyssey to collect funds to save the village became a nightmare for the mayor and inhabitants.
During my interview with the mayor Patrizia Nava, she told me that the utmost unacceptable declaration made by one of these "technicians of politic" was about the famous old bridge built by Romans, in other words he said: "The bridge, forget about it! There are no money to rebuild it, the costs to retrieve original stones from the lake are too high, so far was just an old bridge, what's the problem?"
The mayor continues saying, we didn't understand yet the reason why we cannot control the cleaning and the maintenance of the village of Brienno, in other words, because of corruption and political interests the money given by the region to re-build and clean the area have to be used in the following way. The village will control and maintain the area of the surrounding mountain and the region will take care of the maintenance and cleaning of the village.
She said, it would make more sense if we could control and decide which "workers" can we use to reconstruct the village, we know every one here, most part of inhabitants are carpenters and plumbers or electricians, it would be easier and better, also for local economy to offer them the job. But we can't do that, instead the region decided to launch a public regional auction.
During the days following the landslide no politicians and no officials from the Italian government sent a spoke person to evaluate property damages.
The inhabitants felt neglected.
The problem is doubled; so far the government, environmentalists groups, and officials from the "regione and provincia" don't have a real idea about damages and causes.
Talking with a volunteer of the "corpo forestale" I discovered that debris are the major cause for landslide, in most of the cases areas are saved and cleaned by inhabitants who refused to respect the unreasonable environmental regulation.
The volunteer left me with a question. Piero, his name, said: "I thought it is better to prevent then cure, probably the interests behind natural disasters are bigger then I thought."
Ironically the day after the landslide, the President of Italy Napolitano had a meeting to celebrate the twenty years of the Institute German-Italian, in a small villa located just 10 Km up the road.
He asked for the road to be cleared so he could drive to Laveno, and he didn't bother to stop or to even send a spokes person on his behalf.
His lunch alone cost the italian community five millions Euros, so far Brienno received after a strong battle 126.000 euro and another fund of 86.000 euro, to start re-building the area thanks to a dinner organized in Tavernerio, the mayor was able to collect enough money to help two families who lost their homes, she said: at least we paid for two years rental of temporary accommodation, and we hope we will be able to help them to rebuild their homes, the irony is that they have to pay for the demolishment of their own house.
Here the reality behind Italian population. Italians struggle every single day against, mafia, political interests, financial cries, and so many other problems, which stop the amazing desire of them to upgrade to a better quality of life. So far it is thank to creativity and willpower of Italians that we can still be proud of our country. My question is: will we be able to create a real link between politicians and population?