ROME -- The Italian government on Monday declared a state of emergency for much of the rain-parched north amid a drought, freeing up 36.5 million euros (about $38 million) in funds for the heavily agricultural regions.
The aid was approved at a late evening Cabinet meeting.
The Po River, whose waters help irrigate rice paddies, farm fields and grazing land for cows, including some whose milk is used to make prized Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, is at its lowest level in about 70 years.
Emergency decrees were decided for five regions: Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto, reflecting droughts in the Po River and eastern Alpine basins.
Some cities and towns in the north, including Verona, in Veneto, have put restrictions on water use by citizens.
The drought also has started to affect south-central Italy.
On Rome’s Tiber River, plants growing on the riverbed can be seen on the surface and debris floats in the shallow waters.
“The Tiber, as I can say from my 40 years’ experience on the river, has never had a situation like this,” Giulio Bendandi, a boatman, told AP on Monday.
This year, Italy has received only half the average rainfall of the past 30 years, according to state-run research body CNR.