6: Afar from Vesuvius but Still at Risk: The Unstoppable Urbanization of the Naples Volcano’s Yellow Zone

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Vesuvius is one of the most worrying volcanoes in the world, because it is located in a vast urbanized area with millions of inhabitants. After its last eruption in 1944, volcanologists believe that Vesuvius is in a dormant phase of unknown duration. To prepare for future eruptions, the Italian government issued a ‘National Emergency Plan’ in 1995, which divided the exposed area into several danger zones (red, yellow, and blue). The red zone now includes the 24 municipalities closest to the volcano and potentially affected by volcanic material. The yellow zone includes 63 municipalities across three provinces (Naples, Salerno and Avellino) and over 1 million people. While the political agenda focuses on the red zone, it dedicates less attention to the yellow zone, which is considered, wrongly, less dangerous. This chapter focuses on the Agro Nocerino-Sarnese, an area in the yellow zone comprising 16 municipalities and around 300,000 inhabitants. Historically agricultural, this area has radically changed since the Second World War, in a combination of limited restrictions on urban development and scarce prevention and preparedness measures. Therefore, the yellow zone continues to grow by pursuing chaotic patterns of urban expansion, which prevent proper risk planning.

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