Severe Drought Threatens Agriculture in Italy

After the increase in energy costs, Italian agriculture has been hit by another scourge, a severe drought that has already jeopardized 30% of total output. Although such extreme weather had been forecast, the central and local administrations have done nothing to prepare for it, so that water reserves are near depletion. In addition to farming, domestic consumption and even hydroelectricity production are now threatened, with several cities introducing water rationing during the day.

Given the reduced capacity of the Po River, the Adriatic Sea has penetrated 30 km upstream into the Italian Food Valley (Pianura Padana) in Northern Italy. According to Coldiretti, the largest national farmers association, production of animal feed has dropped by 45%; milk by 20%; durum wheat by 30%; rice by 30%; fruit by 15%; and mussels and clams by 20%, the latter due to lack of water renewal in the Po Delta.

This dramatic situation, which has already produced a loss of €3 billion, is adding to the international food crisis, as well as to high energy and fertilizer costs. Agricultural fuel has reached the unbearable level of €1.60 per liter.

The second largest farmers association, Confederazione Italiana Agricoltori (CIA), has called for various urgent measures, mostly small-sized (rainwater collection, re-use of waste wate,r etc.) but also “building new basins and reservoirs” and “large desalination plants.” Unfortunately, even such good ideas are tainted by “Climate Gretinism”, as the CIA suggests powering the plants with solar panels.

Water expert Andrea Mangano, a pioneer of the Transaqua project in Africa, told EIR that Italy is suffering from the previous decision to stop hydraulic projects that could have made the difference today. He mentioned the example of Florence, which is today unharmed by the drought thanks to the Bilancino Dam, inaugurated in 1999 on the Sieve River. Launched in 1966, after the Arno River flood that devastated Florence, the project took 30 years to build. But finally, thanks to the dam and the reservoir, Florence will likely be spared the water scarcity that is to be expected in many other major towns throughout the summer.

The Apennine Mountains offer other opportunities for such projects, but they have been blocked by environmentalist fanaticism. The Alps are less accommodating from that standpoint, but new reservoirs could be built in the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino, through Italian-Swiss cooperation. The easiest and most natural solution, however, would be to exploit Italy’s 8,300 km of sea coast to install a few desalination plants there, powered by nuclear energy rather than unreliable solar panels. But unfortunately, Italy exited nuclear energy in 1986 and there is no short-term perspective for a comeback, barring a political earthquake. In that case, a dozen or so floating nuclear plants could be ordered from Russia….

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