Milan smog is one example of the environmental crisis Italy faces.

Italy Gripped by Environmental Crisis

Environment News

A blanket of smog hangs over Milan, reservoirs stand empty in Sicily, and wine production plummets in Piedmont, just a snapshot of the environmental crisis gripping Italy.

This multifaceted problem, fuelled by a combination of geography, human activity, and climate change, demands urgent action.

Pollution in the Po Valley

Northern Italy, particularly the densely populated Po Valley, faces a chronic air pollution problem. This region, trapped in a basin by mountains, acts as a cauldron for pollutants like fine particulate matter (PM10).

Recent measurements show alarming levels, exceeding legal limits and prompting restrictions on gas-guzzling vehicles in nine cities across Lombardy. While geographic factors play a role, experts point to inadequate management and insufficient measures to tackle heavy industry emissions and agricultural practices like manure spraying.

Lombardy has banned the customary spraying of animal waste onto fields, a practice that causes high nitrate pollution.

Lombardy smog readings

Regional environment agency ARPA said Tuesday the air-quality tests it did on Monday for pm10 fine particles remained above the legal limit of 50 micrograms per cubic metre in many areas.

It said the value for the province of Milan went from a minimum of 73 to a maximum of 122. For Monza and Brianza the readings reached 111, at Como it got up to 78, and it reached 100 at Lecco, and 94 at Varese.

The smog situation in the region has also been at the centre of media attention after IqAir, a Swiss company that makes air-monitoring and air-purification products, said Milan’s air-quality was the third worst in the world after Chengdu in China and Dhaka in Bangladesh. Milan Mayor Beppe Sala hit back, saying the data provided by this private entity was “not serious”.

Emilia Romagna air quality readings

In Emilia, levels of pm10 particulate matter, which also includes pm2.5 dust, were recorded at over twice the daily threshold indicated by law. For ten days out of the last 14, this limit was exceeded by far in the Piacenza area, with a peak of 119 Monday, and in the Modena area, with a maximum of 111 on Saturday.

Piacenza’s 119 micrograms is the highest value recorded since the beginning of the year in the region.

Modena, on the other hand, already has 29 daily overruns of the limit, very close to the threshold of 35 annual overruns indicated by the EU.

Working towards a collective solution

Authorities across various regions are starting to recognise the urgent need for collaboration. Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont, and Veneto are planning a joint steering committee to tackle the Po Valley’s air pollution woes. This regional cooperation highlights the interconnectedness of these environmental challenges.

Lombardy regional environment councillor Giorgio Maione told ANSA on Tuesday, “In the next few days we will ask for a steering committee on air quality in the Po basin to be convened in order to calibrate joint actions.”

“Lombardy is working with “Veneto, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna as a system on the territorial actions to be implemented,” he added.

“Environmental issues do not adhere to the geographical boundaries of the regions and it is therefore necessary to pursue common policies,” insisted Maione.

Drought issues due to low rainfall and snow levels

Moving south, we find starkly different yet equally concerning environmental woes. Regions like Sicily and Sardinia grapple with severe drought.

This lack of rainfall exacerbates pre-existing vulnerabilities, pushing reservoirs to precariously low levels and forcing water usage restrictions. Reservoir levels there are down 23 percent compared to the average over the last 14 years.

Snow levels were down in both the Alps and Apennines. The Italian snow water equivalent, the equivalent amount of water stored in the snow pack, is down 64% this month compared to a year earlier, according to the CIMA Research Foundation.

Agriculture Feels the Pinch

Piedmont, known for its vineyards, has declared a natural disaster due to drought. Wine production has taken a significant hit, highlighting the economic consequences of environmental issues.

Similar stories echo across Italy, with farmers’ associations warning of the impact on various crops and livestock.

Farmers face a double whammy: their crops struggle due to drought, and warmer temperatures have woken bees early, disrupting essential pollination cycles.

Climate Change Looms Large

Experts paint a grim picture, attributing the increasing frequency and intensity of these extreme weather events to climate change driven by human activity. Rising global temperatures and planet-heating emissions are fuelling this environmental crisis, demanding a swift and coordinated response.

While the challenges are numerous, there is hope. Implementing stricter emission regulations, promoting renewable energy sources, and adopting sustainable agricultural practices offer a path forward.

It’s little wonder climate protests continue despite threat of huge fines.

Ultimately, addressing the environmental crisis requires a collective effort, uniting regional authorities, industry, and citizens to fight for a healthier and more sustainable future for Italy.

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