Italy declares state of emergency for drought-stricken north

Area suffering worst drought in 70 years

Agricultural entrepreneur Federica Vidali, 29, checks her damaged soy plant, affected by seawater flowing into the drought-hit river Po in Porto Tolle, Italy.
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Italy on Monday declared a state of emergency for areas surrounding the river Po, which accounts for about a third of the country's agricultural production and is suffering its worst drought in 70 years.

The government decree will allow authorities to cut through red tape and take action immediately if they think it necessary, such as to impose water rationing for homes and businesses.

The Po is Italy's longest river. It runs for more than 650 kilometres through the wealthy north of Italy.

But many stretches of the waterway have run dry and farmers say the flow is so weak that seawater is seeping inland, destroying crops.

The government said that the emergency measures would cover lands that bordered the Po and the water basins of the eastern Alps.

More broadly, it also introduced a state of emergency in five northern regions — Emilia-Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto — allocating an initial €36.5 million ($38m) to help them tackle the water shortage.

"The state of emergency is aimed at managing the current situation with extraordinary means and powers, with relief and assistance to the affected population," the government said.

It said more action could be taken in future to deal with the drought, which water authorities say is increasingly affecting central Italy after an extremely dry winter and spring, followed by an exceptionally hot early summer.

Italian media have reported that Prime Minister Mario Draghi was also considering a commissioner to co-ordinate the drought response, similar to the one appointed to oversee the coronavirus crisis.

Updated: July 05, 2022, 5:09 AM