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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 April 2007, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
Italy heat wave risks power cuts
By Mark Duff
BBC News, Milan

Harvesting grapes in Italy (file image)
Farmers are worried their crops will not survive a heat wave
Italy's government is facing calls to introduce a state of emergency to fight the threat of power cuts following the mildest winter since records began.

With summer still weeks away, rivers and lakes in the worst-affected North of the country have never been drier.

It is being taken as the latest sign that Italy could find itself on the frontline of the global warming war.

Now even the Vatican is taking the problem seriously, organising a conference to address the issue.

Drive across Italy's biggest river - the Po - at this time of year and you would expect to see a fast-flowing current fed by melt-waters from the Alps.

This year, however, you are more likely to see sandbanks.

Vatican concern

Italy's emergency planning department says water levels in the Po and in Lake Garda, the country's largest lake, have never been lower.

They are warning of power cuts if things do not change because there will not be enough water to cool the power stations that line the river's banks.

Italy's environment minister has acknowledged that a state of emergency may have to be called to combat the looming crisis.

The country's civil defence organisation is warning that June will see an exceptional, in their words "homicidal", heat wave.

Farmers' groups are warning they face devastation if the drought continues.

Scientists have repeatedly argued that Italy is particularly vulnerable to global climate change, with potentially disastrous consequences for its farming and tourism industries.

As if to underline the seriousness of the threat, the Vatican is holding a two-day seminar on climate change beginning on Thursday.

The meeting will focus in particular on the challenge to the developing world and how the Church should respond.

One of the key speakers will be British Environment Secretary David Milliband.




SEE ALSO
Heatwave hits vegetable supplies
28 Jul 06 |  Business
Storms set to end Europe's heat
26 Jul 06 |  Europe
Country profile: Italy
27 Jun 06 |  Country profiles

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