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This little known region in Southern Italy, tucked between Calabria and Puglia at the arch of Italy's boot, had just been designated by the Italian Cabinet as the site for storing all of Italy's nuclear waste � which is currently distributed among multiple regions of Italy including Piemonte, Emilia-Romagna, Lazio and Campania.
The news spread like a shock-wave as many of the region's residents first heard about this through the local news cast and newspapers- local officials had not been consulted ahead of time. Although Italians voted in a national referendum in 1987 to close down all of their nuclear power plants the remaining pools of spent fuel, which can remain radioactive for up to a 150,000 years, still presents a security risk.
After geological surveys the government said that Basilicata's converted rock-salt mine half a mile underground was chosen as safest place in Italy to dump the nuclear waste -- many residents feel the site was chosen because of economics and that such a decision would not have been tolerated by the wealthier north.
Residents said the site would affect farming and destroy the local tourism industry, both vital to the area's economy. Basilicata is often referred to as "ltaly's California" because of it's rolling hills dotted with organic crops and grapes, unspoiled wildlife and breath-taking beaches -- a vacation spot for many Italians. The world was unwittingly exposed to this region�s unspoiled beauty via Mel Gibson�s latest Film, The Passion of The Chirst. I Sassi Di Matera (Matera�s Stones), a neighborhood carved out a stone mountain and abandoned 50 years ago, recalls Jerusalem of 2000 years ago.
Britain's "Guardian" quoted a sympathetic police man standing near one of the roadblocks. "I might be a policeman but I cannot help but feel sorry for these people," said an officer. "There is no way I will lift a hand to stop them from doing this. If it comes to it, I'll even help them."
Italian league for the protection of birds president Giuliano Tallone told Agenzia Giornalistica Italia that "the unconceivable thing is that the government has just allocated funds to build tourist villages right on the coastline, which the European Union declared a protected area. People will now go on holiday right next to a radioactive dump. Is this regional development?"
Meanwhile, the mayors of Basilicata's cities were taking turns joining the protesters in 24 hour vigils and an on-foot religious procession of the Madonna di Loreto, arriving from the Marche region, 300 miles north, reached it�s destination at the Metaponto train station. The statue of the Madonnawas placed on the railroad tracks and the crowds of protesters prayed that that residents, agriculture, and tourism would not die.
The protests continued for more than a week, with groups occupying an existing nuclear site and threatening to take control of the Basilcata's oilfields-- the most productive in Europe.
News spread around the world affecting everyone, including the author of this article located in California, and criticism circled back to the Italian government who began to reconsider the issue and... decree that Basilicata is no longer considered as one of the regions to centralize Italy's nuclear waste.
Basilicata won't be pushed around.
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