The Italian Almanac


Italian News - June 23

Italy will host the first global databank on desertification, Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio announced on Thursday. Speaking at a press conference after signing an accord with the United Nations' desertification agency, the UNCCD, Pecoraro Scanio said the databank would be set up in the central city of Florence. Not only will it include details of affected areas around the world, it will also pool information on techniques and technology to help fight the problem.

"Desertification is a major issue," he said. "This is why I want the upcoming Group of Eight meeting [in St Petersburg next month] to move beyond general statements of principle regarding Africa, and to include decisions on concrete investments and interventions against desertification". The databank accord is part of a series of projects Italy has agreed to coordinate with the UNCCD.

Two of the biggest initiatives, backed by Italy's environment and technologies agency ENEA, will entail setting up a series of Italian water pumps fuelled by solar panels in villages in Burkina Faso and Mauritania. But Pecoraro Scanio stressed that desertification was not just an African problem.

Italy is also affected, particularly the southern regions of Calabria, Sicily, Basilicata, Puglia and Sardinia, he said. "Desertification is a national priority, which is why an urgent action plan is needed," the new minister explained. He said the ministry would be distributing "best practice guidelines to regional authorities in order to fight desertification and reduce water wastage".