Posted on 25 October 2005
Rome, 25 October 2005 – Following a complaint by WWF-Italy, the European Commission has called the Italian government to account over plans to build a bridge joining Sicily to the mainland.
Rome, Italy – Following a complaint by WWF-Italy, the European Commission has called the Italian government to account over plans to build a bridge joining Sicily to the mainland. The Commission says plans for the proposed construction over the Strait of Messina have fail to take adequate measures to avoid damaging habitats in the area. Moreover, the EU says that the Italian government failed to carry out a valid Project Impact Assessment for the Strait of Messina Bridge with regard to two Special Protected Areas.
The letter from the European Commission came after WWF-Italy filed a formal complaint in 2003 regarding the conduct of the environmental impact study (EIS). The EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives oblige member states to apply all necessary measures to avoid disturbing and damaging protected bird species, especially in certain protected areas. The area around the Strait of Messina borders one of the three most important European migration routes for many birds of prey, storks, cranes and other migratory species. Any construction around these areas must follow an EIS.
In its complaint, WWF highlighted the areas at risk from the erection of pylons, construction sites, raised sections of the bridge and excavation deposits and pointed out that these would have a major impact on both the Sicilian and the Calabrian sides of the bridge.
Under threat from the bridge’s pylons are areas around Capo Peloro - Laghi di Ganzirri (home to over 400 aquatic species including 10 endemic birds) and Dorsali Curcuraci-Antennammare (a special area for 33 priority species). Also threatened by the raised section of the planned bridge is Monti Peloritani and Costa Viola (a bottleneck for European migratory birds, especially Falconiformes – falcons, caracaras etc). Some 34,000 individual birds and 32 different species pass through this area in the course of just two months.
For WWF-Italy, given the significance of these areas, if the proceedings end in a referral to the European Court of Justice, Italy should be obliged to scrap the current project and draft a radically different proposal.
“The Italian government must now respond. If it fails to do so properly, the European Commission may well refer Italy to the Court of Justice. This would mean it would have to put forward a drastically different plan and re-open the procedures of evaluation and authorisation – with the risk of financial penalties and suspension of European funding”, said Gaetano Benedetto, Deputy Secretary General of WWF-Italy. For further information:
WWF-Italy Press Office
Tel: +39 06 844 97373, +39 06 844 97266