Basilicata is the largest hydrocarbon reserve in Italy. Long before the implementation of the well-known ore deposits in Val d’Agri, around the turn of the 50’s and 60’s an extensive gas field was discovered in Val Basento, an area belonging to the province of Matera which takes its name from the river that runs through it and flows into the Ionian Sea. On July 31, 1961 Enrico Mattei (President of ENI), Emilio Colombo (Minister of Industry) and Amintore Fanfani (Prime Minister) laid the foundation stone for the construction of the petrochemical company ANIC (Azienda Nazionale Idrogenazione Combustibili) in Pisticci. That day was going to change the history of this area - which has always devoted to agriculture - changing its socio-economic development pattern.

In a few years’ time, in one of the poorest areas of the South, a peak employment level of 7,000 workers was reached, yet Val Basento became one of the largest industrial areas of southern Italy.

The development of the area stopped in the late 70’s with the basic chemicals crisis. Since then a series of re-industrialization and de- industrialization processes followed one another irreversibly affecting the soil in social, economic and environmental terms.

Between the end of the 90’s and the beginning of the 21st century the local main business was represented by the activity of Tecnoparco, a company controlled by ENI and located in Pisticci, dealing with the disposal of oil wastewaters, thus being defined as "the final part of the oil digestive tract". As a consequence of such activity, the surveys carried out by ARPA Basilicata highlighted the critical conditions of the river Basento, where harmful and carcinogenic substances are present both in surface water and in the water table. In December 2013, prompted by the river’s high pollution levels, the mayors of Pisticci and Ferrandina issued an order prohibiting the drawing of water for human and livestock uses.

According to a study carried out by the Istituto Superiore della Sanità in collaboration with the Istituto Tumori (Cancer Institute) in Milan, the percentage of malignant tumors in Basilicata has been frighteningly growing since 1970 and such statistics are expected to be confirmed in the near future. For this reason Val Basento area has been listed among the SINs (Heritage reclamation sites) of the “National reclamation programme” since 2002, but no operations have started so far. The locals impute the causes of pollution to nefarious political choices aimed to meet the interests of multinational companies, such as ENI, left free to act in the territory undisturbed.

Besides, the latest Istat reports show that between 2003 and 2014 Basilicata was among the top three poorest regions in Italy, as highlighted by the statistics regarding the steadily growing youth emigration to northern Italy or other European countries. 

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