State of emergency for drought hit northern Italy

State of Emergency declared in five northern regions of Italy

By Region Environment News North-east Italy North-west Italy

Italy declares a state of emergency in five northern regions over a worsening drought. The cabinet approved a state of emergency in Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto until December 31.

The government said in a statement on Monday, it has allocated €36.5 million to help those affected. The five regions affected are Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto all of which butt against the River Po.

Italy is facing an unusually early heatwave and a lack of rainfall. The Po valley, which produces around 40% of the country’s food, including wheat and rice, has barely seen any rainfall for around four months.

The river, Italy’s longest, is seven metres below average. Also below average is the amount of rainfall Italy has received in the past 30 years, according to state-run research body CNR.

Effect on agriculture and hydroelectric power

According to Coldiretti, the country’s largest agricultural union, the drought threatens more than 30% of national agricultural production. In addition, it threatens half the farms in the Po Valley, one of the products of which is Parma ham.

The Po is extensively used by farmers to irrigate rice paddies, farm fields and grazing land for cows.

As a result of the drought, hydroelectric power production has fallen sharply. Hydroelectric plants are located mainly in the mountainous north of the country. They account for nearly 20% of national energy production.

What does the State of Emergency mean?

The state of emergency provides “extraordinary means and powers” to help guarantee public safety and compensation for losses while seeking to guarantee normal living conditions for those in the area.

In recent days, several municipalities have announced restrictions. Verona has rationed the use of drinking water, while Milan has closed its decorative fountains.

The declaration comes a day after multiple people died when a glacier collapsed in the Italian Alps. Draghi said the avalanche was “without doubt” linked to climate change.

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