Hikers and tourists visiting one of Italy’s most scenic stretches of coastline have been banned from carrying plastic bottles of water amid fears that the area is being “buried” in rubbish.
Instead they will be asked to pay one euro for reusable, metal flasks which can be filled up from newly-installed public water fountains.
The quaint Italian villages, terraced vineyards and precipitous cliffs of the Cinque Terre in the country’s north-west attract three million visitors a year.
However, as well as enjoying the region’s wine, food and stunning views, the tourist hordes discard two million plastic bottles, some of which tumble down the cliffs and end up littering local beaches and polluting the sea.
The worst month is August, when an average of 400,000 plastic bottles are discarded along the narrow strip of picturesque World Heritage coast, which lies south of Genoa in the province of Liguria.
Under the plan, tourists entering the national park which encloses the Cinque Terre region will be encouraged to buy the one-litre reusable flasks, stamped with the national park’s logo.
Automated water fountains offering chilled, fizzy and still water will be installed in the coming months so that they can replenish their water supply as they hike the nine mile long coastline.
The Cinque Terre – literally, The Five Lands – consists of five coastal villages linked by a railway line and a network of steep, narrow footpaths.
The first five fountains will be installed next month around Riomaggiore, the region’s main village, followed by the hamlets of Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.
Franco Bonanini, the president of the Cinque Terre national park, said the ban was being introduced because the area was being “buried” in plastic.
“With so many visitors, the footpaths and villages of the Cinque Terre are at risk of being transformed into a great big open air dustbin.
“We are going to update the existing water fountains and install new ones: they will provide people with still or sparkling filtrated water. By the start of next Spring, we hope to have liberated ourselves from this nightmare,” said Mr Bonanini.
He said local shopkeepers were likely to be unhappy with a ban on selling bottled water but should realise that it would be in their long-term interests.
“If the Cinque Terre is reduced to a rubbish dump in five years’ time, they will suffer the consequences. This is a sacrifice that will benefit shopkeepers and everyone else. To the three million tourists who come here every year, we ask them for a little bit of understanding, in order to save this paradise for the future.”
Marco Salarpi, from the local water authority, said tests had shown that mains water was as good as, if not better, than bottled water.
The length of time it takes plastic to decompose makes it one of the most problematic types of litter around the world.
Last year scientists confirmed that there are millions of tonnes of plastic floating around the Pacific Ocean in an area known as the North Pacific Gyre, a slow moving vortex.
Four major currents have carried millions of tonnes of rubbish into the remote area, with the mostly plastic refuse now covering an area estimated to be larger than Texas.
Several climbing expeditions have been dispatched to the summit of Mt Everest to clear the summit of plastic detritus as well as abandoned tents, oxygen cylinders, sleeping bags, tin cans.
Article taken from Telegraph.co.uk
Nick Squires in Rome
Published: 10:52PM BST 21 Sep 2010