Floods in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna are a sign of unfurling climate crisis and state’s failure in adaptation

Two waves of floods—in the first week of May and another that started on May 16—hit the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, killing 16 people and displacing over 50,000 

May 23, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
23-05 Italy Flood
(Photo: Communist Refoundation Party)

Leftist parties, workers’ organizations and progressive groups in Italy are actively engaged in solidarity and relief efforts in the flood-ravaged parts of the Emilia-Romagna region. Two waves of floods — in the first week of May and another that started on May 16 — hit the region, devastating parts of the cities of Bologna, Cesena, Forlì, Ravenna, and Rimini. At least 16 people have lost their lives and more than 50,000 have been displaced. The damage due to the floods is estimated to be around 5 billion euros (US$ 5.39 billion).

Heavy rain, cloud bursts, and the Storm Minerva led to the widespread flooding of the rivers in the Emilia-Romagna region and caused multiple landslides in the mountainous terrain. Experts have pointed out that extreme climate change has been causing intense rain in central Europe and wildfires in the Mediterranean over the past 2-3 years. Groups including Potere al Popolo (Power to the People), the Communist Refoundation Party (PRC), and the Young Communists (GC) have blamed the federal and regional administrations’ pro-business development model, which has neglected environmental concerns.

Progressive sections in the region have especially called out ‘cementification,’ referring to the development model of the regional administration led by the Democratic Party (PD), which is based on massive construction projects. The federal government led by Giorgia Meloni is also facing criticism for its approach to crisis mitigation, as shown by an insensitive tweet by Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini who equated the tragedy to the defeat of his favorite football club. The decision to give permission to a concert by Bruce Springsteen on May 18 at Ferrara in the flood-affected region was also widely criticized.  

Meanwhile, volunteers from left-wing groups including Potere al Popolo, PRC, GC, and the Communist Youth Front (FGC) have actively joined relief work and are gearing up for a major demonstration on June 2, demanding money for the region instead of weapons for the war in Ukraine.

In a statement, the committee of Potere al Popolo in Emilia-Romagna said that “extreme weather events like one of the last few days will be the new normal, alternating with long phases of drought. And these last few days glaringly show how the priorities that govern our society should change. The priority should be widespread efforts to secure river banks and waterways, urban planning adapted to the new conditions, and putting public resources into rescue efforts.”

“Emergency does not end with the rain, the emergency is the Emilia-Romagna System,” Potere al Popolo stated.

The national and regional leadership of the PRC stated that “climate crisis, cementification, and lack of maintenance of the land results in the repeat of these tragedies. The repetition of these events signals that we need a national plan to secure the territory and adapt to the climate crisis.”