ARCHIV - 15.06.2022, Italien, Boretto: Risse im sind im Erdreich des Flussbettes zu sehen. Das Austrocknen des Flusses gefährdet die Trinkwasserversorgung in den dicht besiedelten und hoch industrialisierten Gebieten Italiens und bedroht die Bewässerung in dem am intensivsten bewirtschafteten Teil des Landes. Foto: Luca Bruno/AP/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

Italy is suffering from a record drought not seen in decades. Former large rivers such as the Po wither away to small rivulets due to a lack of rainfall.

Entire gravel banks are exposed. Tributaries such as the Sangone near Turin have already dried up completely, as a video from the Italian daily newspaper “La Repubblica” shows.

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A number of municipalities and administrative districts are appealing to the Italian government to finally declare a state of emergency in order to be able to activate urgently needed aid funds and civil protection. The first decrees and water saving measures have already been passed.

Will the drought in Italy also affect Germany as a result of climate change? What restrictions must German holidaymakers expect? And what influence does the drought have on Italian export goods?

Despite the persistent drought, Italy does not appear to be losing popularity as a holiday destination. As the Tuscany Regional Council Leonardo Marras reported to the German Press Agency (dpa), he has not yet registered any travel cancellations due to the ongoing drought. Instead, the government recorded almost four times as many flight bookings from abroad compared to the previous year. The number of passengers from Germany is said to have doubled.

Despite high tourism figures and the onset of the holiday season, Italy is taking cost-cutting measures due to the water shortage. According to the dpa, the head of Italian civil protection, Fabrizio Curcio, spoke of alarming, “worrying data”.

The government is currently working on an emergency decree. According to Curcio, it cannot be ruled out “that the water in the worst-affected areas will also be partially shut off during the day”.

What specific effects and restrictions must vacationers in Italy expect as a result of the drought?

Italy is considered a major exporter of agricultural products. The wheat exported from there is mainly shipped to developing countries. As a result of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, global demand for grain had already increased enormously before the drought. An additional shortage due to crop failures could exacerbate the global grain crisis.

It is not just wheat that could become scarce as a result of the ongoing drought. The Italian Minister of Agriculture Stefano Patuanelli told the dpa: “We are very concerned about the cultivation of corn, soya and rice”.

The president of the Coldiretti Toscana agricultural association, Fabrizio Filippi, fears that “at best 30 percent of regional agricultural production” will be lost due to the drought.

The valley around the Po River is currently particularly affected by the drought. According to a report by the European Commission, rice is the main crop grown in this region and exported to Europe. However, growing this type of grain uses a lot of water.

In recent years, agriculture has been increasingly intensified, so that irrigation using rain soon no longer suffices. Because of this intensification and the cultivation of cereals with a very large “water footprint”, the situation could now drastically worsen.

Along with wine and olive oil, Parmesan is one of Italy’s most traditional export goods. The hard cheese “Parmigiano Reggiano” has been protected by the “DOP” seal of origin since the 1950s and may only be produced in cheese dairies in certain Italian regions.

As the news channel CNN reports, the persistent heat is now also affecting Parmesan production. The broadcaster spoke to cow farmer Simone Minelli, who keeps around 300 Holstein cattle near the city of Mantua in the Po Valley affected by the drought.

According to Minelli, the animals would have to drink between 110 and 150 liters of water a day to produce enough milk for the coveted cheese. The food for the cows (in this case the soybean cultivation) would also require water. As soon as there is no water, the milk would no longer meet the high quality requirements for Parmesan production. In short, this means: no water, no seal of approval.

As a result of the lack of rainfall, reports of forest fires are increasing in Italy. As the dpa reports, the Italian fire brigade was called to 10,336 forest and bush fires across the country between June 15 and 27 alone. This is more than 1,000 deployments more than in the same period last year. The main season for forest fires has not even started yet.

Locusts feel particularly comfortable in dry regions. Because Italy has not recorded any rainfall for more than 100 days, the locust population has increased enormously, especially in the province of Nuoro on Sardinia. According to the Coldiretti agricultural association, up to 50,000 hectares of arable land have already fallen victim to the voracious animals.

In keeping with the locust invasion, farmer Giuseppe Casalone in the northern Italian region of Piedmont reports a “catastrophe of biblical proportions” given the drought and lack of rainfall. A large part of his plants had already died in the sprout stage. His fields are now so dry that even rain can no longer help.