NO-TAV protests in Valle di Susa

The Italian Valle di Susa is currently in the international spotlight due to strong opposition against the planned construction of the TAV, the high-speed railway line which is to link Turin with Lyon, France.
TAV Torino Lione

The Italian Valle di Susa is currently in the international spotlight due to strong opposition against the planned construction of the TAV, the high-speed railway line which is to link Turin with Lyon, France.

Local residents are concerned that the 15 year construction of a 52 kilometer tunnel will cause severe and irreversible damage as the mountain which divides Italy from France is said to contain uranium and asbestos. The protest, which currently involves thousands of demonstrators and the 40 mayors who represent the local population, culminated in a police night attack last Monday on sleeping demonstrators at Venaus. This resulted in at least 20 injured and a parliamentary enquiry into the matter.

We have decided to devote time and attention to this issue because of the serious nature of what occurred and because we belive that a magazine such as ours, dedicated to the passion of climbing mountains, must treat themes such as these which are closely linked to the environment and the safeguarding of our future.

What follows is an open letter by Luca Mercalli (Italian Meteorological Society) after the dispute on 31 October. Yes, because the raid on 6 December wasn't the first time the police intervened. Obviously this first charge didn't suffice, and this time things went even further...

A witness report from Valle di Susa (31/10/2005)
by Luca Mercalli - Italian Meteorological Society

Dear all, it was an epic day here in Val Susa. It seemed as if we were back in darkest middle ages (or rather, now we're really there). Not only for the dark sky and particularly melancholic fog which hovered around the yellow chestnut trees at the base of Rocciamelone. I've just returned from scenes of civil war and I feel nauseated. Fortunately not because of a punch in the stomach, for I managed to avoid the truncheons by accompanying a journalist colleague from the Swiss Italian radio. But I threw up because of what I saw, unworthy of a civil and democratic country.

More than a thousand police, anti-riot carabinieri and finanziari (Italian military police, translators note) up against normal people, as if we were the worst criminals (while these continue their lives untouched and unpunished... Where ever have you seen 1000 men dressed up for war, I repeat a thousand, carry out an operation against criminals or fraudsters?). Until yesterday evening hundreds of people, pensioners, students, people from all walks of life slept in the woods, ready to face the bulldozers at the break of dawn, were hunted down like wild animals.

And this is how things turned out. At 6.00am this morning in the middle of the woods the riot police arrived and it seemed as if we were in Baghdad. First and foremost the mayors, legally elected representatives of the people, came under fire from the carabinieri with phrases such as: "Who do you think you're representing with that Italian flag." Others were kicked and pushed to the ground, people with their hands raised above their heads, unarmed, who underlined their PEACEFUL protest, were carried away from the expropriated fields. Metropolitan police officers who protected their ARRESTED (and later released) cocitizens from the state police. How can this be? State vs. state? Who is more official? A public officer who defends his territory against the arrogance and rapaciousness of the cement lobby, or the agents sent by Rome and the minister-mole Lunardi?

But the interviews we gathered were surprisingly mature: competent and mature demonstrators, people who quoted Gandhi and the rise in the price of oil. People who asked themselves what on earth in 20 years time will be transported on these super-hyper-mega trains, when we can't even manage to make the existing ones work properly. People who ask not to use 15 billion euro to make the nth hole in the Alps, but to invest in hopitals, renewable energy and environmental pristination projects.

Just a quick example of these crazed thermodynamics: 15 million cubic meters of rocks extracted from a 54 km long tunnel beneath Moncenision, and they don't even know where to put it all. And here's the brilliant solution the planners have put forward: the mouth of the tunnel is located at circa 600m, while at 2000m there's a quarry which was used to extract material for the Moncenisiso dam in 1968. So let's just fill the quarry with the waste and les jeux sont faits! A 16km conveyor belt will elevate the rocks, whose density is 2500 kg/mc, over 1400 vertical height gain. Only continental drift is capable of carrying out something similar, but this works at about 1mm increments/year. Do you understand the delirium of easy energy? And to think that we're here, wondering how to save a few miserly watts by isolating roofs or driving electric motorcycles...

The old folk, blocked off by the police cordons, said that just 60 years have passed since partisans walked these same paths chased by the Germans. And to think that in three months time Val di Susa will be rendered beautiful for the Olympic Games...

Well, I'm too shaken to continue now, I'm at risk of writing something stupid. We'll talk about all of this when tempers have settled. Thanks for your messages of solidarity..."

Luca Mercalli

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