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Italy suffers from smog and drought

Italy suffers from smog and drought

(Rome) Smog is choking Milan, Sicily is suffering from severe water shortages, and wine production is declining in Piedmont: lack of rain across Italy is exacerbating pollution and causing drought against the backdrop of global warming.

The most polluting cars were banned from driving on Tuesday in Milan and eight other towns in Lombardy due to extremely high air pollution levels in this wealthy northern industrial region.

Sergio, 60, who has lived in the Milan area for 36 years, told AFP: “The smog levels have become truly unbearable.”

“The sky is gray even when there are no clouds. “The air quality in Milan was never good, and now it’s bad,” adds Paolo Ciacco, 22, who says he is considering wearing a mask.

Lombardy, which is home to many intensive livestock farms, has also banned the spread of slurry on fields, a practice that causes significant nitrate pollution.

Northern Italy has long been one of the most polluted regions in Europe. Lombardy's problem is partly geographical, as the region lies in an intermountain basin and is therefore poorly ventilated.

But environmental NGOs believe this obstacle often serves as an excuse for authorities to justify high levels of air pollution, without taking action to address them.

Areas throughout Italy suffer from drought or a significant lack of precipitation, especially in the mountains, especially in the Alps.

Italy's snow water equivalent — the amount of water stored in snow — fell 64% this month compared to a year earlier, according to CIMA Research.

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The lack of rain exacerbates an already difficult situation, after the heat waves that occurred in 2023, which led to a decrease in the level of reserves and an increase in water consumption.

Sicily declared a state of natural disaster due to drought in early February, and in Sardinia farmers can only use limited amounts of water.

The level of water reserves decreased by 23% compared to the average of the past 14 years.

The southern regions of Puglia and Basilicata are also suffering, with farmers' association Coldiretti warning over the weekend that high temperatures had awakened thousands of bees earlier than expected.

This situation threatens the pollination of some crops, because bees do not coincide with the flowering period of the plants from which they collect pollen.

The Piedmont region in the northwest of the country asked the Ministry of Agriculture on Monday to declare a state of natural disaster due to the drought plaguing the region that has affected vineyards and caused a “significant” decline in wine production.