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Fact sheet containing a description of the complaint
to the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal on the situation in Val Susa.

Last April, the Val Susa Counter-Observatory, and a large group of administrators from local villages and towns, addressed the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal regarding the situation in Val Susa. These individuals requested the Tribunal to verify whether the issues regarding the Lyon-Turin TAV (high-speed train) were respectful of the basic rights of the valley inhabitants and local communities, in other words, if there have been serious and systematic violations of the above-mentioned rights.

The details of the issue are briefly described below:

Val Susa connects Italy to France by means of four alpine passes, and is located in the western part of Piedmont, west of Turin. It includes 39 municipalities and has approximately 97,000 inhabitants.

The valley is currently traversed by the international Fréjus railway line (the so-called Torino-Bardonecchia-Modane-Lyon historic line), the A32 motorway (completed in 1994) running parallel to the railway line, two state roads and other minor thoroughfares.

Val Susa has been threatened, for twenty-five years, by a new high-speed train railway line infrastructure project, when the motorway crossing the valley had still not been completed yet. These high-speed trains would transport both passengers and goods, and the line was designed to be 270 km long, partly in Italy and partly in France. It includes a 57-km tunnel through the Alps at 600 metres above sea level. The tunnel has not been started yet, but three exploratory tunnels were excavated in France between 2002 and 2012, whereas, in Italy, excavation is in progress to complete a geognostic (exploratory) tunnel started in 2012 in the Maddalena area of the village of Chiomonte: this tunnel should be concluded within five years.

Since the project for a new railway line was presented, strong opposition has developed in Val Susa, with enormous support from the local population and administrators, academic professors, experts in several disciplines, who have highlighted multiple critical aspects since the very beginning. This opposition was, and is, focused on:

a) the environmental impact and extreme risk for the health conditions of the inhabitants, resulting from the excavation in progress in a mountain rich in asbestos and uranium, and the relative preparatory work, where the dust deriving from this work would spread in the atmosphere;

b) the evident uselessness of the project, which is requested by influential entrepreneurial and banking groups despite the presence of the existing railway line, which is providing sufficient service (currently used at less than 5% of its potential) and the decrease of passenger and freight traffic on the east-west route (road traffic is decreasing as well);

c) the waste of public money, since the overall cost of the project, according to estimates, is 26 billion Euros (in the Italian context, where final costs for large public works are generally five times higher than the estimated cost);

d) the fact that the local community did not participate in the decision-making process; local administrations were by-passed, and there was a total lack of any consultation mechanism or bottom-up participation since the beginning of the project (the local community's participation is crucial also in the light of the 1998 Aarhus Convention).

The opposition movement has grown over the years and has organized protests with mass participation on the part of the local population (up to 70,000 people), so that the case has turned into a national and international point of reference. Considering the above, the concerned economic powers and, together with them, mainstream press, and most national, as well as some local politicians stood firm and rejected any possible form of real dialogue proposed by the movement. Instead, they tried to transform the people's opposition into a public order issue to be handled by means of police and military forces (even deploying army units that had already been active in Afghanistan).

The subject of the complaint submitted to the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal goes beyond the specific case and stresses issues of general relevance: starting from the increasing environmental devastation affecting current and future generations, a basic citizens' rights, to the total exclusion of directly concerned people's participation in a decision-making process regarding those same individuals. The Val Susa case is a clear symbol of these issues, including also the fact that crucially important decisions for the lives of entire populations and/or significant numbers of citizens, were actually relegated to national and international economic and financial powers.

These issues, which are many and whose number is growing, are becoming evident in Italy and worldwide as well – proof of their central and contemporary importance. In these situations the violation of populations' and individuals' basic rights is less brutal compared to other cases that the Tribunal has analysed, nevertheless they represent a new threshold, both locally and regionally, in terms of rights with regards to attacks putting the very ecological and democratic stability of the planet at risk.

We believe that this might be a matter of interest also for the “Forum Against Unnecessary and Imposed Mega Projects” and the related organizations that are part of it. They may have a future role in the case that hopefully will soon be prepared in front of the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal

We, therefore, are sending a copy of the petition to the members of the “Forum Against Unnecessary and Imposed Mega Projects” and ask them to issue a declaration or documents in support of this initiative (also a brief version) that we shall forward to the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal.

The demand for justice and protection concerns not only the territory in question, it also comes from an increasing number of movements and citizens affected by similar events and abuses of power.

 

Livio Pepino for the Counter-Observatory