Italy declares a state of emergency in five northern regions

Italy has declared a state of emergency in five northern regions amid the worst drought in 70 years.

It applies to Emilia-Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto regions, the government said in a statement.

The Council of Ministers-approved move will see €36.5 million allocated to try and deal with the drought.

The valley of the River Po, 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 the average.

Almost half of Italian livestock under threat

The state of emergency aims to grant “extraordinary means and powers” to ensure the implementation of urgent interventions necessary to guarantee public safety, the repair of damage to public and private property and the normal living conditions of the population.

According to the country’s largest agricultural union, Coldiretti, the drought is also threatening half of the livestock in the Po Valley, where Parma ham is produced.

Lakes Maggiore and Garda have lower than normal water levels for this time of year, while further south the level of the Tiber River, which runs through Rome, has also fallen.

Another consequence of the drought is that hydroelectric power production has fallen sharply. Hydroelectric installations, located for the most part in the mountainous regions of northern Italy, produce nearly 20% of the country’s energy.

The announcement comes a day after at least seven people died after a glacier in the Italian Alps collapsed, “undoubtedly” linked to global warming, according to Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

More than a hundred municipalities in northern Italy have been forced to adopt measures to conserve water. Verona, a city of a quarter of a million inhabitants, and Pisa recently joined them.

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