Italy readies 7.8 bln euro package to tackle drought – newspaper

Milan: Italy is preparing to approve a decree allocating 7.8 billion euros ($8.32 billion) to tackle a severe drought that is hitting the country, Rome’s energy and environment minister was quoted as saying on Friday.

Weeks of dry winter weather have raised concerns that Italy could face another drought after the one last summer, with the Alps having received less than half of their normal snowfall, according to scientists and environmental groups.

A decree to deal with the drought will soon be looked at by cabinet ministers, minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin told Italian daily La Stampa in an interview.

“We are all committed to defining the actions to be taken with funds already allocated and which, according to an initial estimate, would amount to 7.8 billion euros,” Pichetto Fratin is quoted as saying.

Italian rivers and lakes are suffering from a severe lack of water, the Legambiente environmental group said last month, adding the Po, Italy’s longest river which runs from the Alps in the northwest to the Adriatic, had 61% less water than normal at that time.

Last July, Italy declared a state of emergency for areas surrounding the Po which accounts for roughly a third of the country’s agricultural production and suffered its worst drought for 70 years.

For the coming months, the priority is “to make a sufficient quantity of water available to meet the demand of Italian households and businesses, especially those in the agricultural sector”, Pichetto Fratin said.

“There is the need to start long-term planning to improve the efficiency of our water network, which in some areas of the country has a pipeline leakage of over 50%, compared to a national average of 37%. A waste that we can no longer afford”, he added.