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Italy risks severe drought after dry winter

Environmentalists call on government to act fast.

Italy is at risk of a serious drought as its rivers and lakes suffer from a severe lack of water due to little or no rainfall over the winter, the Legambiente environmental group has warned.

The problem is more acute in the north and affects in particular the river Po which has 61 per cent less water than normal for this time of year.

The vast Po Basin, irrigated by Italy's longest river, produces about a third of the country's agricultural produce.

Mountain snow is also in scarce supply, Legambiente warns, with less than half of the normal snowfall in the Alps this year.

The environmental group has called on the government to tackle the problem, highlighting a series of proposals as part of a national water strategy.

These include collecting rainwater, reducing water losses, improving irrigation efficiency and urging the agricultural sector to embrace less water-demanding crops.

The drought alarm comes as Lake Garda water levels have dropped low enough to let people reach the island of San Biagio by foot.

“2023 has just begun but it is showing worrying signs in terms of extreme weather events, drought levels", said Legambiente director Giorgio Zampetti, who warned that prolonged droughts affect not only agriculture and industry but also upsets the balance of the ecosystem.

Last July Italy declared a state of emergency in five northern regions around the river Po, allocating funds of €36.5 million to tackle the crisis.

As Italy faced its worst drought in 70 years last summer, the archbishop of Milan prayed for rain while in Rome the river Tiber levels dropped to reveal the remains of the ancient Pons Neronianus or Bridge of Nero.

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