Italy issued a state of emergency for the districts around the Po River, which contributes for nearly one-third of the country’s agricultural output and is experiencing its worst drought in 70 years.
The government edict would empower officials to bypass red tape and take fast action if they believe it is essential, such as imposing water restrictions for families and businesses.
The Po is Italy’s longest river, running for more than 650 kilometers (400 miles) through the prosperous north of the country. Many portions of the river, however, have dried up, and farmers claim that the flow is so low that sea water is creeping inland and killing crops. more info
The administration stated in a statement that the emergency regulations would apply to regions bordering the Po and the eastern Alps’ water basins.
It also declared a state of emergency in five northern regions: Emilia-Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont, and Veneto, allocating an initial 36.5 million euros ($38 million) to assist them deal with the water crisis.
“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 administration said.
It went on to state that other steps might be implemented in the future to cope with the drought, which water experts believe is becoming increasingly severe in central Italy after an extraordinarily dry winter and spring followed by an exceptionally hot early summer.
According to Italian media, Prime Minister Mario Draghi is contemplating creating a commissioner to organize the drought response, similar to how the government established a commissioner to supervise the coronavirus outbreak.