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Drought emergency declared for northern Italy, frees up aid

Rome (AFP) – The Italian government on Monday declared a state of emergency for most rain-hit regions in the north amid drought, freeing 36.5 million euros (about $38 million) in funds for high-density agricultural areas.

Aid was approved at the late evening cabinet meeting.

The Po River, whose waters help irrigate rice paddies, farm fields and grazing lands for cows, including some whose milk is used to make Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, is at its lowest level in nearly 70 years.

Emergency decisions were made for five regions: Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto, reflecting the drought in the Po River and the Eastern Alpine basins.

Some cities and towns in the north, including Verona in Veneto, have placed restrictions on the use of water by citizens.

Drought is also beginning to affect south-central Italy.

On the Tiber in Rome, plants growing on the river bed can be seen on the surface and debris floating in the shallow waters.

“As I can tell from my 40 years of experience on the river, there has never been a situation like this before on the Tiber,” Julio Bandandi, a navigator, told The Associated Press on Monday.

This year, Italy has received only half of the average rainfall over the past 30 years, according to the state-run research body CNR.

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