Monday, December 10, 2007

Italy farmers urge government to spend more on water control

Reuters: Italy must invest billions of euros in improving water management to prevent disasters caused by climate change, instead of mopping up after floods and landslides, farmers' groups said on Monday. Italy, where about 70 percent of towns are at high risk of floods or landslides, invested 1.4 billion euros ($2.1 billion) to prevent land erosion between 1998-2005, said Massimo Gargano chairman of the national farmers' water management body ANBI. Rome has also spent nearly 1.5 billion euros to repair damage caused by floods and landslides over 1999-2005, Gargano told a news conference, citing government figures.

"We have a culture of emergency... We need a civil pact, an economic accord to turn the culture of emergency into a culture of prevention," Gargano said, flanked by representatives of regional farmers' and water management associations. Italy has been hit by 5,400 floods and 11,000 landslides over the past 80 years, Gargano said, citing Italy's environment protection agency APAT.

The figures were set to rise as global warming and rapid urbanization put the water management system under increasing pressure, ANBI officials said. The system is based on a network of reservoirs and canals, many of them centuries old. In 2003, Italy's Environment Ministry estimated investment needed to guarantee soil protection from floods, drought and landslides at 39.1 billion euros, but only just under 3 billion euros have been spent, the officials said.

"We talk about water only when there is an emergency -- flood or drought. But it is an everyday problem," said Nino Andena, head of Italy's biggest farming group Coldiretti in the Lombardy region. Italian farmers and power utilities lock horns over use of water every time there is a spell of dry weather. Farmers in northern Italy, where most rice is grown, have cut the use of irrigation water by about a third over past two years, farmers' officials said.

No comments: