Italy on Monday declared a state of emergency for areas around the Po River, which accounts for nearly 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 red tape and take immediate action if they deem it necessary, such as imposing water rationing for homes and businesses.
The Po River is the longest river in Italy and extends for more than 400 miles through the rich northern Italy. Its water helps irrigate rice paddies, farm fields, and grazing lands for cows, including some whose milk is used to make the precious Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
However, many parts of the watercourse have dried up and farmers say the flow is so weak that seawater seeps inland, destroying crops.
The government said in a statement that the emergency measures would cover the lands adjacent to the Po River and the watersheds of the Eastern Alps.
More broadly, it has also imposed a state of emergency in five northern regions – Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto – and allocated €36.5 million ($38 million) in funds to help them tackle water shortages.
“The state of emergency aims to manage the current situation with extraordinary means and powers, with relief and assistance to the affected population,” the government said.
She added that more measures could be taken in the 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 summer.
Italian media reported that Prime Minister Mario Draghi was also considering appointing a commissioner to coordinate the response to the drought, in a similar way the government created a commissioner to oversee the coronavirus crisis.
News agency Contributed.