The cabinet approved a state of emergency in five regions – Friuli-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto – until December 31st, the government said in a statement that also announced a €36.5 million fund to help those affected.
Italy is facing an unusually early heatwave and a lack of rainfall, particularly in the northern agricultural Po Valley, which has been hit by its worst drought in 70 years.
The state of emergency provides “extraordinary means and powers” to help guarantee public safety, compensation for losses while seeking to guarantee normal living conditions for those in the area.
According to the country’s largest agricultural union, Coldiretti, the drought threatens more than 30 percent of national agricultural production, and half of the farms in the Po Valley, where Parma ham is produced.
Lakes Maggiore and Garda were also hit by lower than normal water levels for this time of year, while further south the Tiber River, which runs through Rome, also dropped.
The Po represents the peninsula’s largest water reservoir, much of which is used by farmers.
In recent days, several municipalities have announced restrictions.
Verona, a city of a quarter of a million people, has rationed the use of drinking water, while Milan has announced the closure of its decorative fountains. Another consequence of the drought is that hydroelectric power production has fallen sharply.
Hydroelectric plants, mostly in the mountainous north of the country, account for nearly 20 percent of national energy production.
The announcement comes a day after at least seven people died after a glacier collapsed in the Italian Alps which Prime Minister Mario Draghi said was “without doubt” linked to global warming.