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"We are in extreme danger." Italian Parmesan producers are afraid of the future in the drought

Po River, Italy (CNN)The main artery through central Italy, where 30% of food is produced, is 650 kilometers. The length of the Po River (400 miles long) winds from the Alps towards the Adriatic Sea on the northeastern coast of Italy.

As is known, the "Big River" plays an integral role in the history of the country. Prior to the construction of the bridge, the deep sea protected civilizations on both sides from intruders who could not cross.

Later, cities and industries sprouted in banks and used water for hydropower, transportation and irrigation. Along several sections of the Po River, the treatment plant turns the muddy river into drinking water.

Po is supplied by winter snow and heavy spring rains in the Alps, often leading to catastrophic floods. At a cafe near the riverside near the city of Mantua, a measuring bar on the wall shows how high the water was. In 1951, it almost touched the roof.

But in 2022, things will be very different. An unusually dry winter meant less snowmelt and only sporadic spring rains, leading to the worst droughts in northern Italy for over 70 years, local agencies on the Po River confirmed.

As a result, Po has reached record low water levels, according to the European Space Agency. Animation of the agency's Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite mission reveals how the river "significantly shrunk" between June 2020 and June 2022.

And that's a big problem for millions of people who depend on Po. Their livelihood. Salt damage from the Adriatic Sea has begun to turn its freshwater into poison that cannot be used by crops. Recent samples show more than 20 km (12 miles) of salt water inland. As the river goes down, the sea continues to fill the gap.

Massimiliano Fazzini, head of the Climate Risk Division of the Italian Society of Environmental Geological Society, said that in the current hydrological year, which began on December 1, water shortages in the Po river basin are about 45% to 70. It states that there is. % In some areas.

"I usually don't have pessimism or vigilance, but this time I do have to be vigilant," he told CNN, with average snowfall in the average year. He mentioned the difference from 7.5 meters (24.6 feet) to 2.5 meters. (8.2 feet) This year, coupled with rising temperatures, which means that the reservoirs that may be accessible during the drought year have not reached capacity. "The situation is critical and only gets worse," he said.

The outlook is bleak at Simone Minelli's dairy farm on the banks of the river near Mantua. He told CNN that water is an important part of surgery to feed his herd of 300 Friesian cattle.

His cows produce 30 liters (6.6 gallons) of milk daily and are converted to authentic Parmesan Noregiano Parmesan cheese in the region. If his cow does not drink 100-150 liters (22-33 gallons) of water a day, or is overheated, the milk does not meet strict standards and the cheese has a coveted approval. No mark is given. ..

But the bigger concern than the water in their valley is what they eat. Mineri mainly uses water from Poe to irrigate crops to feed cattle. He showed CNN a soybean field suffering from small dead plants that were not irrigated and did not feed cattle.

He is worried about water restrictions as he sees Poe's level go down further. And where can you even buy feed if other farmers are suffering as well? "I'm very worried, we take it every day," he said. "If you don't have enough food to feed your cows, you need to reduce them," he said, referring to the number of cows in the herd. The nearby Parmesan Noregiano Consortium mixes his milk with the milk of 20 other dairy farmers to produce 52,000 rounds of coveted cheese each year. When the milk dries, no cheese is made.

Further upstream of the river, Ada Giorgi showed CNN a pumphouse run by a consortium she had run for 20 years. The consortium had to pay to remove sand from the riverbed so that the pump wouldn't get clogged, she said, and one meter (3.3 feet) to lower the pump further if the water level continued to drop. ) Pipe was added. Water from the pumphouse is supplied to the maze of canals leading to the irrigation hub and treatment plant.

The consortium's 150,000 customers are still receiving water, but Giorgi says he's looking at Poe's level and worried about the future. "The last time the river was low was in 2003," she told CNN. "It's worse this time. It doesn't rain, it doesn't snow, and the temperature is high," she said. "It creates the famous perfect storm. We are in extreme danger."

If it doesn't rain, and if no meaningful rain is predicted in the near future, Things will get worse. In the city of Milan, Italy's financial center, the mayor orderedto turn off all decorative fountains, banningwashing private cars and watering gardens and lawns. ..

In the small town of Castenaso near Bologna, hairdressers and barbers reportedly banned clients from washing their hair twice to save water before the supply was low. I am.

Meanwhile, severe heat waves have hit most of southern Italy since May.

Scientists say the Mediterranean regionClimate crisis hotspotsDue to the man-made crisis, heat waves have become more frequent and intense here, reducing summer rainfall. Temperatures are the world average, and the drought here, even if the world is, will worsen by the middle of the century. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If emissions continue at very high levels, droughts and wildfires will become very serious and it will be difficult to continue farming. Tourism is also less attractive.

Italy is a net food exporter, providing commodities like wheat to many developing countries. The drought here only exacerbates the food crisis that is being felt seriously in the poorest parts of the world. And the river Po is very important for Italians.

The author, Tobias Jones, traced the history of the river in his book, Po-Italy's Longest River Elegy, and captured its importance by tracing the entire length of the river. He says Po is for Italy, the Thames for London, and the Mississippi for the United States.

"For centuries, we were worried about river floods, but climate change risks the rivers drying up," he told CNN.

"It's not just a river, it's part of the spirit of the people. The towns along it attract tourism and industry. It's almost a moat in Central Italy that kept it safe from intruders. Now it's a threat underneath and no one knows what to do to save it. "