Gas plant to overshadow Greek temples

Italy gives go-ahead to storage depot less than a mile from World Heritage Site

They are among the finest survivors of ancient Greek civilisation in the Mediterranean: a line of imposing Doric temples on the southern coast of Sicily which have been listed as a Unesco World Heritage site since 1997.

But now the Italian government plans to build a huge liquid gas terminal less than a mile away from the famous Agrigento site, to the fury of environmentalists.

The site is protected by environmental laws, but the effect of these has been cancelled by the simple act of stating that the heritage site does not exist, according to Carlo Vulpio, the Corriere della Sera journalist who has been spearheading the environmentalists' fight back. Mr Vulpio disclosed yesterday that a ruling signed into law on 28 September by the Environment Minister, Stefania Prestigiacomo, backed by the Culture Minister, Sandro Bondi, stated that the planned €500m (£420m) plant "does not infringe on the special protected zone at a community level, inasmuch as the closest affected district is between 13 and 20km from the area of the planned development."

Thanks to this claim, the project has now obtained the all-important "environmental impact assessment" go-ahead from the ministerial commission in charge of these questions, on the grounds that it will not impact on sites of importance to the community. "It's therefore a pity," writes Mr Vulpio, "that at less than 1km (and not 13 or 20) from the point at which they want to realise the project, which consists of two holding tanks, each of 160,000sq m, 47m high and 72m across, plus the 40m-high flame tower, is to be found the Archaeological Park of the Valley of the Temples."

The Valley was awarded World Heritage Site status in 1997. It was founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century BC. "Its supremacy and pride," says Unesco, "are demonstrated by the remains of the magnificent Doric temples that dominate the ancient town, much of which still lies intact under fields and orchards. Its... row of Greek temples is one of the most outstanding monuments of Greek art and culture."

At the Valley of Temples page on Unesco's website, the file "Threats" is empty. But the menace posed by the terminal, to be built by Enel, Italy's national energy corporation, is lively enough that Unesco's Japanese director-general, Koichiro Matsuura, plans to visit the site tomorrow to make a first-hand assessment.

The Agrigento temples are set amid rolling hills with a commanding view over the sea, but the Mafia is a powerful force here. Environmentalists have for years been sounding the alarm over the rash of legal and illegal apartment blocks and hotels sprouting perilously close to the monuments. Back in 2002, Unesco was sounding the alarm about these developments. One official told Reuters: "The proliferation of illegal building growing up around Agrigento makes you think a bomb wouldn't be a bad solution." Opponents of the new liquid gas terminal believe the legislative sleight of hand which enabled the project to hoodwink the environmental assessment risk commission was thanks to the Mafia's ability to "oil the wheels" of government.

Now, however, critics hope that the self-evident outrageousness of building a major industrial facility a few minutes' walk from a world-famous Unesco site is gradually dawning on the island's politicians. The EU's Culture Commissioner Stavros Dimas has asked the Sicily region to furnish "urgent clarification" about the project, and now the Mayor of Agrigento, Franco Zambuto, and president of the park's ruling body, Rosalia Camerata Scovazzo, have agreed to challenge the project "in every court in the land".

Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

1st line call logger/ User access administrator

£9 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Warrington a...

Shine Night Walk 2014 - 'On the night' volunteer roles

Unpaid Voluntary Work : Cancer Research UK: We need motivational volunteers to...

Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivable)

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable...

Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

£200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star