Too many of us have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with blocked drains in our homes. Kitchens and bathrooms get flooded, the water pours like torrents through the state room in our humble abodes, the drain pipes splatter over our balconies, hairs have to be extracted from the S-bends of sinks………….enough said about this sordid situation..
Italy is becoming like a huge house with blocked drains. The awful spate of landslides, streets turned into raging waterfalls, the flooding of vast tracks of once fertile agricultural land point to one simple fact. Don’t just blame the weather, or even climate change, for these “bombe d’acqua” (literally, water bombs) but point to the fact that the millions of rivulets, valleys, dales, gorges, channels, creeks and gullies that are supposed to drain this most mountainous of European countries have become blocked through neglect and abandonment of once cherished farmland.
There was a time before the “economic miracle” when Italian chestnut forests giving that “bread of the poor” with their fruit were manicured with the care usually administered to English bowling greens, when rivers were carefully banked, where fields were meticulous terraced and their irrigation channelled with the attention given to Indonesian paddy-fields, where streams were gently guided through torturous routes with the care given to exotic water features in Kew gardens.
The last five years of environmental disasters in Italy has finally prompted the government to set up an emergency programme to literally unblock the nation’s natural drains and to make everyone aware that the country’s preservation depends enormously on the care given to its natural habitat.
I am, therefore, very heartened to see that on our road through the Controneria to our village of Longoio and beyond, Cantieri (or construction yards) have been set up to clear up the areas of streams crossed by bridges.
Acrobatic excavators are performing miraculous balancing feats on impossibly steep slopes (just imagine if one of them toppled over!), logs are being positioned to create artificial weirs and control sudden rushes of water, spikey, tangly undergrowth is being cleared and large boulders placed on ravine sides to stabilise further soil erosion.
It’ all very encouraging and I look forwards to further tutelage of the beautiful countryside around us. This sign says it all and it’s part of a scheme to reduce damage to the environment by water gone wild:
There’s absolutely no need to have a semi-tropical rain forest eating everything up. It’s principally a correct balance between natural features and man-made improvements “à la Capability Brown” that can make our countryside look not just more appealing but safer and enable us to walk even more paths through it natural beauties.
Perhaps even that chapel approached by an ancient bridge over the Refubbri stream and the inspiration for Robert Browning’ poem (see my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/devil-may-care/) could be included in this scheme. Who knows? Italy is happily realising, and not one jot too soon, that the countryside is a work of art needing just as much care as the façade of Lucca cathedral or any other item in its magnificent architectural and historical heritage.