A pact for letting the Po Valley breathe

 An agreement among mayors to allow the Po Valley to breathe – on April 22 it has been submitted to the public, during the World Earth Day, by the mayors of Milan Beppe Sala, of Bologna Matteo Lepre, of Turin Stefano Lo Russo, of Venice Luigi Brugnaro and of Treviso Mario Conte. They signed it at Piccolo Teatro Studio Melato in Milan, where “Cities change air” (which attracted many public administrators of the Po Valley district) was put on stage. A critical and chronic problem they all share – pollution. 

As the scientific journalist Barbara Gallavotti put it: “The Po Valley has never had the reputation of being a place where air is good – however, latest data created a surge of worries in the population”. In September, for example, a survey made by the Netherlands and Switzerland has mapped particulates all over Europe – in our continent almost no one breathes an air with such a low level of particulates as WHO recommended should be reached within 2035. The map of Europe showed a particularly critical situation in the Po Valley and in Eastern Europe (where the problem is due to technology, with the still widespread use of coal as energy source). In the Po Valley the situation is more complex – high population rate (more than 20 million people) and high concentration of productive activities (which generate more than 50% of national GDP), and, in addition to this, the area is sheltered by mountains that cause a poor circulation of air.

The situation has become even worse due to the climate change, with weather phenomena getting more and more extreme, drought periods becoming more frequent and extended, together with heavy and violent rains, which help in gathering polluting substances, so deteriorating even more the air quality. 

Even if from 2002 up to now the level of particulates in this wide area of Italy has almost halved, it is not enough.

The mayors started from the Constitution; from Article 32, which states that health is among the main rights of any citizen. But pollution causes diseases and kills. The agreement says that “The pollution of soil, waters and air is a constant threat to the psycho-physic wellbeing of our fellow-citizens. In our time, health and environment protection makes an inseparable combination, towards which political action and strategies should aim during the next years”.

 Local authorities commit themselves to promote in their territory measures that are virtuous as far as the environment is concerned. “We commit to replace all municipal diesel boilers, to go on planting new trees, to promote measures aimed at decongesting cities from private motorised traffic, to invest in public transport and to encourage the use of more sustainable means of transport”. However,they are aware that their sole force and will are not enough and for this reason they turn to Italy and to Europe and ask for their help in this battle. 

“We ask the Italian Government to urgently invest money to reduce the negative impact on the environment of the transport of people and goods, as well as industrial and agricultural activities. We ask for real investments for financing and sustaining the public local transport, above all in the transition to electric vehicles. Moreover, we ask for extraordinary funds for plans of replacement of obsolete boilers and generally, for the energy efficiency of buildings and the urban reforestation, quickly and with an agile and efficient delivery system”. 

 “We ask the European Union to do its part – because the Po Valley is one of the most serious cases, both for the characteristics of its territory and for its high population and productive density. We believe that the only solution is an extraordinary plan at every level. The issue of air quality cannot be coped with only occasionally, and as a local problem – it is a constant and long-lasting challenge that involves all boards and people on the territory. We ask for a strong coordinated action, carried out even with a special commission that, cooperating with our boards and Regions, could help us working out possible actions and goals; which could help us reaching them even through funds and resources, to be used together with those allocated by our Government, in order to cope with the several interventions.”

See the meeting at

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