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The BBC's David Willey in Rome
"In some parts of Italy thousands of new buildings have been erected in zones scheduled as protected areas"
 real 28k

Monday, 20 March, 2000, 17:50 GMT
Bulldozers clean up historic Italian site
A bulldozer flattens the first of the illegal buildings
A bulldozer flattens the first of the illegal buildings
Bulldozers have flattened the first of 500 buildings erected illegally next to a group of ancient Greek temples in Sicily.

Police escorted the bulldozers to Agrigento's Valley of Temples, concerned that angry owners might try to halt the demolition of the buildings nestling alongside the 2,500-year-old ruins.

Environmentalists and the national government have fought against local constructors and town officials to try to keep the sprawling archaeological site free from the blight of new buildings.

The ruins are said to be the finest examples of Greek architecture outside of Greece.

Mafia links

The government banned all new building in the Valley of the Temples 30 years ago.


bulldozer
Some 500 buildings are scheduled for demolition
But construction companies - many linked to the Mafia - frequently flouted the regulations, and the landscape is now littered with hastily constructed homes and commercial buildings.

The authorities blamed a landslide in 1966 on uncontrolled building in the upper part of the town.

Among the illegal buildings are a three-star restaurant, a church, and dozens of elegant villas. Many are scheduled for demolition, but the homeowners protest that they have nowhere else to live.

First to topple was the warehouse of a former Mercedes Benz dealership built 20 years ago by a local man suspected by investigators to be a mobster.

The man, Calogero Piparo, disappeared in the 1980s, presumably the victim of a Mafia vendetta.

Environmental concerns

Italy's interior and public works ministers watched the demolition, keen to stress the government's intention to tackle the degradation of the environment.

"It's a strong signal for getting back to the law," said Interior Minister Enzo Bianco.

On Monday, Environment Minister Edo Ronchi watched as eight homes were knocked down near the southern port city of Salerno.

The villas were built too close to the Mediterranean, and near a national park on Unesco's heritage preservation list.

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