A remote region between Bologna and Florence suffered from severe hydrological problems due to the construction activities for the new high-speed line. Streams and wells dried up and farmers lost their water supply. Furthermore, the local people suffered a large amount of inconvenience because of the long-lasting and problematic construction works.
The construction of the high-speed connection between Florence and Bologna started in 1996 and was preceded by a long and intense phase of discussion and local opposition. The line has an overall length of 78 km with more than 73 km in tunnel sections.
The line crosses various types of landscape with different demands, such as built up areas as well as highly valuable ecological areas. Discussion began in 1991.
Although an environmental impact assessment was carried out that laid down a number of mitigating measures, there have been serious impacts that were not previously taken into consideration. Construction works started in 1996. One year later, major concerns arose about the endangering of local agriculture as well as problems with the security of construction sites and the drying up of ground water and springs. There were some serious incidents; one when water poured into the tunnel, and another when the water quality of the streams decreased due to pollution from the construction sites. In 2001 it became evident that due to the construction works many small streams had simply disappeared, and therefore so did the fish, plants and other wildlife that was linked to this habitat. At this time local people were assured by the regional administration that their households would not run short of water even if the streams that feed the aqueduct dried up. However, this promise was not kept.
Local initiatives that intensely opposed the project claimed that despite the law on environmental protection – which states that no natural resource should be reduced or endangered in a significant and irreversible way – the regional government did nothing to prevent the drying up of more than 50 springs in the whole region of Mugello.
Furthermore, the initiatives blamed the administration for not taking action against the contamination of the excavated material with mineral oil from digging machines. TAV SpA claims that it had to sign a procedural agreement with the Ministry of Environment in order to guarantee the implementation and monitoring of environmental mitigation measures that were laid down in the environmental impact assessment. For this reason a regional observatory for environmental impacts was set up. This observatory was blamed for not reacting to complaints or not reacting adequately according to the seriousness of the problems.
Due to the shortfall of water in this region it was necessary to provide local homesteads with water from fuelling vehicles.
Apart from the environmental impact, local initiatives like "Idra" mentioned that the social conditions for the workers were extremely bad in terms of labour schedule and security of construction sites. Between 2000 and 2004 four workers died due to these conditions, as mentioned by F.I.P. Via Villore.
However the result of the project up to now is quite negative: more than 60 cases have been brought to the court of justice; in terms of water resources, 50 springs, 17 streams, 27 wells and 2 aqueducts have disappeared, altogether 44,933 millions of cubic meters of lost water.
The Italian Supreme Court has decided to approve new appeals for the proceedings on the environmental damage linked to the construction of the high-speed railway through Mugello. This could at least bring some justice to the inhabitants of the region.
Video (Italian) about the continued trial in Mugello: