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Italy declares state of emergency for drought-stricken north

Italy on Monday declared a state of emergency for areas surrounding the river Po, which accounts for roughly a third of the country’s agricultural production and is suffering its worst drought for 70 years.

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

The Po is Italy’s longest river which runs for more than 650 km (400 miles) through the wealthy north of Italy. However, many stretches of the waterway have run dry and farmers say the flow is so weak that sea water is seeping inland, destroying crops.

Italy has declared a state of emergency in five northern regions following a worsening drought.

Even the country's longest river, Po, is drying up.

Water levels are so low that even a shipwreck from WWII has resurfaced.

— DW News (@dwnews) July 4, 2022
The government said in a statement 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 – earmarking an initial EUR 36.5 mln (USD 38 mln) of funds to help them tackle the water shortage.

A shrinking Po River and brown fields are visible in this animation showing the area near the city of Piacenza, #Italy.
All images were taken by the @CopernicusEU #Sentinel2 mission in June 2020, 2021 and 2022.
The effects of the current heatwave and drought are striking 🌡️

— ESA EarthObservation (@ESA_EO) June 27, 2022
“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 added that further measures could be taken in future to deal with the drought which water authorities say is increasingly impacting 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 appointing a commissioner to coordinate the drought response, in a similar way in which the government created a commissioner to oversee the COVID-19 crisis.

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