A lonely boat on Po riverbed in July 2022
#06 DROUGHT IMPACT ON PO RIVER (CREMONA)
In the original version of Aesop’s fable The Ant and The Grasshopper, the grasshopper is actually a cicada, and in a way it’s somehow apt that in the park by the Po river just outside the center of Cremona the air is filled (I mean really filled) with the infernal noise of cicadas; it even partially covers the sound of the lawn mowers operated by some park workers. The moral of the Aesop’s story is that you should prepare for the future, and the drying Po next to the shrieking cicadas is reminding everyone that we haven’t prepared for the future enough (or in the right way at least); apparently the grasshopper attitude has prevailed, and the results are now right in front of us.
Few days before my trip to Cremona, Pier Luigi Rizzi, the president of the local chapter of the Italian environmental organization Legambiente “Vedo verde” (“I See Green”) sends me a link to an article of a local newspaper La Provincia that warns how it isn’t safe anymore to travel on Po by boat and lists all the critical spots near Cremona. The article describes how “as if [Cremona] was closed in by two shallows” (referring to Po that runs outside the town center on the north-west side of it), and it quotes worried representatives of local canoeing clubs.
Boats secured in front of Canoeing Club Leonida Bissolati.
Canoes in front of Canoeing Club Baldesio.
Over the distance of less than 2km (little over 1 mile) by the riverside, there are several boating and canoeing clubs, but no-one boating on the river. At the restaurant of the Cremona Powerboat Association, a lady tells me that the last time the situation of Po was so bad was “in 1903 or in 1908”. She claims that boating on the river is currently forbidden, but according to other two women you just “really need to know where you can go, where the boat passes”. The issue is that, as per the La Provincia article, by now it’s too risky everywhere on the river; the water is too low in simply too many spots.
The floating dock in front of Canoeing Club Baldesio had a note on it: “Due to the condition of Po, please secure your vessel on the outer edge of the dock.” (By now it would be impossible on the inner edge.)
In front of the Canoeing Club Baldesio the bank descends quite steeply; near the water the grass gives way to a strip of rocks along the bank, after which there’s a narrow floating dock with some small boats secured to it. The short bridge from the bank to the dock has a note on the railing: “Due to the conditions of Po, please secure your vessel on the outer edge of the dock. Thank you.” It takes a while until it dawns on me: that space covered with rocks between the grass slope and the dock should be under water. That’s the ‘inner edge’ of the dock, currently completely unusable for docking; instead you can also walk on those rocks without wetting your feet, and indeed the dock isn’t so much floating but firmly resting on the rocks.
Vessels secured in front of Canoeing Club Flora.
On the train back home, the train runs through endless corn fields with a couple of sunflower fields in the middle. The screen inside the wagon informs me that outside temperature is 40°C (104°F), and the weather forecasts tell that there might be some rain in the following days. I will not hold my breath.
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