The Italian government on Tuesday adopted a draft bill under which the perpetrators of "environmental catastrophes" would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The bill, which must be passed by parliament, "anticipates" a planned European Union directive on environmental crimes and puts Italy in line with "the largest European countries," a government statement said.
Polluters would be jailed for between one and five years and pay fines ranging from 5,000 to 30,000 euros (6,800 to 41,000 dollars), it said.
Those convicted of causing "environmental damage" face between two and six years in prison and fines of between 20,000 and 60,000 euros, or more if human lives or health are threatened.
"Environmental catastrophes" will be punishable by between three and 10 years in jail and fines of between 30,000 and 250,000 euros, and "alterations of natural heritage, flora and fauna" by one-to-three-year jail terms and fines of between 2,000 and 20,000 euros.
Illegal dumping, a frequent crime in the southern Naples area, will carry a prison term of between one and five years and a fine of between 10,000 and 30,000 euros, rising to between two and six years in jail and 20,000 to 50,000 euros when it involves dangerous waste.
The bill also covers trafficking in or dumping radioactive material, environmental fraud and damage to environmental resources.
Several EU states including Belgium, the Czech Republic and Denmark already have strict laws on environmental crimes.
The European Commission is drafting legislation that would enable European arrest warrants for environmental crimes.
Special Thanks to Briet Bart