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    Emergency Declared in Italy to Manage Drought

    EnvironmentClimate changeEmergency Declared in Italy to Manage Drought
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    Emergency Declared in Italy to Manage Drought

    Smarting under the effects of an unusually early heatwave and deficient rainfall, both ascribed to climate change, the government of Italy has declared a climate emergency for five of the country’s northern regions reeling under a severe drought.

    A state of emergency has been imposed in five of Italy’s northern regions as the worst drought in seven decades has led to acute water shortages due to an unusually early heatwave and deficient rainfall.

    Reservoirs have run dry and farmers don’t have water to irrigate their crops. City and local governments are rationing water as they cannot provide piped water for drinking and household purposes.

    Officially, the Italian government has conceded that this is due to climate change. Winter snowfall has been short by 70 per cent and the region has not seen rainfall for over four months.

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    Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office announced an allocation of special relief fund of a 36.5 million euro (or $39.5m) for the affected region.

    A glacier collapse led to the death of seven people on Monday.

    Besides, summer months with record high temperatures and melting of the reserves of snowfields and glaciers in the surrounding Alps has left the Po basin without its summer water reservoirs, leading to the drying up of the river Po and depleting aquifers of stored groundwater.

    A dry river Po

    The drying river has led to the resurfacing of an old warship from the second world war and also the discovery of ancient villages covered under the exposed riverbed. And, the city of Venice, where the river Po ends its 650 kilometre stretch journey, has even imposed an entry tax for visitors. Milan has turned off its attractive fountains to save water.

    The five northern regions are densely populated, highly industrialised and intensively farmed – the country’s food valley is known for the king of cheese or Parmesan cheese, durum wheat, prized tomatoes, Italian rice and vineyards – that give to the world the famous Lambrusco wine and Balsamico di Modena. In short, an economic hub. Fishing in the region has come to a standstill.

    It is estimated that cultivated and uncultivated food and cash-crop production will together fall to half of what it was last year.

    Besides, a dry Po river will also lead to starving numerous hydroelectric power plants for water and halting electricity production – a dire scenario for much of Europe that is already tangled in an energy mess following the Ukraine war.

    Resilience plans

    The Po river authority is working on a resilience plan that involves draining water from high altitude Alpine lakes.

    The Italian government is also working with the government of Israel to import water-generating technologies. A delegation 22 Italian water utility companies and engineering firms visited Israel in June to explore ways to tackle the drought.

    There is a history of droughts in the region – but it has never been so bad.

    According to the climate change research news site, climatechangepost.com, northern Italy has witnessed heavy drought events in the years prior to 1971. The droughts lasted between six and eight weeks with up to five extreme drought between 1971 and 2000, often impacting almost half the region’s area.

    But things have changed over the decades.

    Climatechangepost says that Northern Italy currently experiences some of the highest rates of annual water availability in Europe. “Approximately two-thirds of this, mainly surface water, is used for irrigation with stress from groundwater abstraction a problem in only a few areas.”

     

    Image: Hippopx – licensed to use under Creative Commons Zero  –  CC0

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