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Italy is counting the dead because of hydro-geological instability also during the summer. This time the killers are landslides. The victims of this terrible natural phenomenon have been three in the last few days, including a 14-years old girl, buried alive by a mass of earth that came down on 4th August between San Vito di Cadore and Cortina, in the Valley of the river Boite, in the province of Belluno. It is the mountains’ fury unleashed upon man, eased in its destructive work by incompetence, as well as by inefficient policies and administration. As it happened last year in Genoa, during the flood, and to stay on the subject, as it happened also in Sarno from 5th to 6th May 1998, when 2 million cubic meters of mud, that detached from Pizzo d’Alvano, provoked 160 victims. A carnage that could and should have been avoided.

Current events show that little has changed since then: a few drops of rain in excess and Dante’s ”Bel Paese” ‘Beautiful Country’ is flung into emergency, forced to engage economic and human resources to cope with one disaster or another. Obviously, always too late, when the relatives of the dead are already mourning the disappearance of their loved ones.

The latest data published by the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research show clearly that landslides represent a concrete daily threat. The “Inventory of Landsliding Phenomena in Italy”, produced in collaboration with Italy’s autonomous Regions and Provinces, has surveyed 499,511 landslides that have affected an area of 21,182 square kilometers, the equivalent of 7% of the national territory. The percentage may seem trifling, yet it is not, considering that 1,001,174 people live in these geographic areas, all equally in danger when nature awakes. At the top of the regional charts is Calabria, with 159,611 residents at risk, followed by Marche (104,300) and Sicily (95,931). Most landslides have limited effects, yet they provoke victims: 211 in 2014 alone. Then, there is also economic and structural damage, that create enormous difficulties to the affected citizens and municipalities: Ispra (The Institute for Environmental Protection and Research) has estimated 6,180 critical points along the main road network, 720 of which along the motorway network. While along the 16 thousand kilometres of railways have been identified at least 1,862 areas where the risk of landslides is high.

In an attempt to limit the risks of hydro-geological instability, that includes other natural phenomena, the government has launched a plan for a total amount of 1 billion and 303 million euros meant for the regional interventions in the North and the South, mainly in the large metropolitan centers. “The first sites will be open in 10 cities: Bologna, Cesenatico, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Olbia, Padua, Pescara, Venice – has explained the minister of the Environment, Gianluca Galletti – the other ones are going to be funded in the near future, at the beginning of next year. With this plan we face the first priorities following two specific criteria: on the one hand, we have chosen the sites that have higher risks for the population, on the other hand, – their state of  progress”. The goal, has explained the minister, is to reward the municipalities and the regions that have projects in an advanced state of construction. “We have produced a protocol with the Canton for the contracts’ transparency and to protect legality – continues Galletti – and another one with Trade Unions, so as to allow the sites to stay open for longer time, working on shifts. I have appreciated the accord of the Trade Unions to adhere to this agreement because I think it is a further important signal”.

“At the beginning of this Government we promised to focus on the hydro-geological problem. Today we present a real plan with actual resources, that will be already available tomorrow. This must be followed by a concrete commitment of the Regions – stresses the minister – for these resources to become sites on the territory as soon as possible. There are all the necessary conditions for this to happen as soon as possible. “Nobody should think, though, that this can solve the problem of hydro-geological instability in Italy. We have a very long work ahead, that will go beyond the current legislature, because for too long we have forgotten to maintain the territory”.

At the center of the government’s action are the local authorities, that are invited to take action in their turn. “We need to learn to plan better. We have weakened our territory and this plan aims at offering a possibility for us not to mourn victims anymore” has stressed the minister Graziano Delrio. So, the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Graziano Delrio, in the course of the press conference at the Palazzo Chigi for the presentation of the cities’ securing plan. “Care and maintenance of the territory are key words”, explains Delrio who hopes there is going to be full cooperation of the local authorities. “With the program presented today emergencies are being faced immediately  – has concluded the manager of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transportation. But the project aims at a wider significance, so as to recover the work lost in the past. Of the old program, 1.8 billion more euros still have to be spent. We are counting to recover this sum in 2016”.

Translated by Ecaterina Severin

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