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WEATHER

EXPLAINED: How could Italy’s drought state of emergency affect you?

Italy's government has declared a state of emergency in five northern regions. Here is what this means for people who live, work, or visit those areas.

EXPLAINED: How could Italy's drought state of emergency affect you?
This picture taken on July 2, 2022 in Rome shows the low water level of the river Tiber near the Vittorio Emanuele II bridge, revealing an ancient bridge built under Roman Emperor Nero (Bottom). (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

The Italian government approved a state of emergency in five regions, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto, that will be in place until December 31st, according to a government press release.

The authorities say the decision was taken due to the current water deficit situation in the territories of regions within the basins of the Po and Eastern Alps and other drought conditions detected in other areas.

READ ALSO: Italy has declared a drought emergency in five northern regions

According to the government, “the state of emergency is aimed at addressing the current situation with extraordinary means and powers, with rescue and assistance interventions to the population concerned, and at restoring the functionality of public services and strategic network infrastructure.”

The first step is allocating money to the National Emergency Fund.

How much money will the government spend?

Italy’s government has set aside € 36.5 million for its National Emergency Fund.

Most of it, €10.9 million, will be sent to the Emilia Romagna region. The Lombardy region should receive €9 million, while the Piedmont region is set to receive €7.6 million. The Veneto and Friuli Venezia regions will each receive €4.8 million and €4.2 million, respectively.

What is a state of emergency?

A state of emergency is a provision by law that entitles the government to put through policies through direct ordinances, without the need for parliamentary approval, for the safety and protection of its citizens, according to Italian law.

It’s what has allowed the Italian government to set the budget for its National Emergency Fund regarding the drought.

Through a state of emergency, many Covid-19 regulations were first implemented, and help to receive Ukrainian refugees was quickly offered.

What will change with the state of emergency?

It’s hard to tell. For now, the financial aspect, with the € 36.5 million set aside to combat the drought effects, is confirmed, but the federal government haven’t given much more information on what the money will be spent on.

READ ALSO: Eight ways to save water during Italy’s drought

The state of emergency provides “extraordinary means and powers” to help guarantee public safety and compensation for losses while seeking to ensure normal living conditions for those in the area.

There is also an expectation for a task force creation which will decide on further measures.

Veneto’s governor Luca Zaia told ANSA that the state of emergency was a “welcome” decision. However, they are now “waiting to understand the details and the appointment of the Commissioner and any subcommissioners so that we can be operational with quick interventions”.

What can we expect in the future?

Zaia mentioned several steps that could be taken using the National Emergency Fund cash. Among them, he suggested investments to clean mountain reservoirs and create new reservoirs.

There is also a need to invest and assist agriculture and start moving production in Italy to a more “arid culture” modality, the Veneto governor said, citing the Israeli experience with crops in extreme weather.

Local authorities including in Baveno, northwest of Milan, have cut the water supply to fountains. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

It is also possible that the state of emergency will be used to impose sanctions on those who waste water and risk fires, for example. It also gives the government the green light to impose water usage restrictions.

What restrictions already exist?

Local authorities have already imposed several restrictions in the affected states.

Veneto has so far been one of the hardest-hit regions as most of its corn and wheat crops are dangerously near a point of no return, and several areas continue to be struck by water shortages.

READ ALSO: Drought in Italy: What water use restrictions are in place and where?

Measures are stringent in Villorba, near Treviso, where until September 30th, residents will not be allowed to use potable water to water gardens, wash vehicles or fill up private pools between 6 am and 11 pm.

Fines for breaking these rules reportedly range from €25 to €500.

Similar water restriction rules are in place in almost all the affected regions, while others monitor the situation closely and are expected to start taking measures soon.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

MAP: The parts of Italy most at risk from floods and extreme weather

After flooding devastated parts of central Italy on Friday, data has revealed the areas most at risk as such 'extreme weather events' become more frequent.

MAP: The parts of Italy most at risk from floods and extreme weather

After severe storms and flash floods in the central Marche region last week left 11 dead, with two still missing, environmental organisation Legambiente said climate interventions “can no longer be put off”.

“The climate crisis is no joke,” the group said in a press release published on Saturday. “The flooding that hit Le Marche is yet another alarm bell that the planet is sending us.”

IN PHOTOS: Devastation after deadly flash floods hit central Italy

Italy was hit by a total 64 floods between January and September 2022, according to the latest data from Legambiente’s Città Clima (‘Climate City’) Observatory, with some areas worse affected than others.

As the majority of Italy’s floods occur in the autumn and winter, it’s feared that the total figure for 2022 will be higher than for 2021.

Disasters like the one that hit Marche are difficult to predict, but data from the most recent Città Clima Observatory’s report, published in November of last year, shows which parts of the peninsula have suffered the greatest number of extreme weather events since 2010, giving an idea of the areas most at risk.

Data showed these were mainly large cities such as Rome, Bari, Milan, Genoa and Palermo, and coastal areas, particularly the coasts of Romagna, northern Marche, and eastern Sicily.

The parts of Italy that have experienced the most extreme weather events since 2010. Source: Città Clima

Sicily has been the worst-hit region in recent months, battered by eight floods so far this year and 14 in 2021, the Città Clima interactive map shows. Palermo, Catania and Syracuse have each experienced multiple floods in the past couple of years.

Lazio has also been hard hit, experiencing six flooding events so far in 2022 and ten in 2021, the majority of which occurred in Rome.

READ ALSO

Capital city Rome experienced by far the highest number of extreme weather events: 56 in total, of which 13 involved such heavy rainfall it caused damage to infrastructure and 21 necessitated a partial closure of metro lines.

Bari, the capital of Puglia, was the next worst hit, with a total of 41 events, 20 of which were floods and 18 of which took the form of tornados or whirlwinds that caused damage to the city.

Milan experienced 30 events, of which 20 were a result of river flooding.

The metropolitan area of Naples experienced 31 events, 18 of which occurred in Naples itself, while Genoa was hit by 21 events variously consisting of flooding, torrential rainfall and whirlwinds, and Palermo experienced 15.

A total of 132 extreme weather events were recorded in Italy between January and July 2022 – more than the annual average for the last decade, Legambiente reported in its press release.

A flooded field in Sassoferrato, Ancona province, after severe storms on Friday. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

There have been a total of 510 floods in Italy from 2010 to September 2022, 88 of which happened in 2021, according to the organisation’s statistics.

The association urged the government to take urgent action, arguing that Italy is currently the only major European country that lacks climate adaptation plan, which it says has been on hold since 2018.

“There is no more time to waste,” said Legambiente president Stefano Ciafani.

“If the plan is not approved in a very short timeframe, we risk seeing disastrous social, environmental and economic impacts over the next few years.”

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