According to LOCALTIMEZONE, the perception of how much the traditional organization of the city can negatively affect the quality of life is part of a broader perception, which concerns the management of natural resources and environmental protection, and which, which emerged at the beginning of the 1970s, it is increasingly rooted in social consciousness, so that environmental policy has become a fundamental component of Italian society in the last part of the 20th century.
Tensions between the demand and the availability of resources have been felt more and more in relation to the water supply. According to recent assessments, the country’s water availability can be estimated at: 18 billion m 3 / year usable by surface water circulation, 22 billion m 3 / year obtainable through the network of dams and reservoirs of the Alpine and Apennine mountains, 13 billion m 3 / year from underground strata. In total, it is about 53 billion m 3 / year. On the other hand, the estimated water requirement in the 1980s amounted to 54 billion m 3/ year, divided as follows: 8 for civil uses, 32 for agriculture, 13 for industry and 1 for inland navigation. Even considering that these are estimates, it can be seen that, in any case, the country has rapidly started – during the last two decades – towards the saturation of water resources that can be procured within limits of economic convenience. Drought years, such as those of the second half of the 1980s, helped to underline the seriousness of the phenomenon, which appears even higher if we consider that part of the water, both surface and underground, is polluted.
The hydrographic network has been compromised by several human behaviors. First of all, from deforestation, which has assumed considerable dimensions both in the Alpine region and in the Apennine areas. To this are added the forest fires, largely of a culpable and malicious nature: the current wooded area is just 6 million ha, compared to 20 ÷ 22 million ha available at the beginning of the twentieth century. The run-off and the consequent accelerated erosion were accentuated and spread precisely because of the degrading behavior of the wood mantle and neglect in the management of the river beds. The frequency of landslides was a typical consequence. Among the most important events are the landslide of Ancona (1983) and the landslide of Valtellina (1987). However, it is the myriads of landslides, small in size but very frequent, which constitute the most alarming aspects of the phenomenon, because they demonstrate its structural nature. During the Eighties, meteorological behavior, consisting of the alternation of dry and hot years with cold and humid years, contributed to accelerate erosive phenomena.
In the thirty years 1950-1980, about 1 billion tonnes of sand and gravel was taken from the riverbed of the Po. In many other watercourses, substantial withdrawals of inert materials took place. In particular, this activity was intense in the river mouths, that is, in the contact strip between fresh and salt waters. The size and the vastness of the phenomenon have caused the destruction of many ecosystems, some of which – such as those at the interface between the sea and continental water circulation – are endowed with particular naturalistic value. However, the greatest damage derives from the lowering of the water table, which in the Po basin was so accentuated as to jeopardize the bases of the bridges and reservoirs. Consequently, in the 1980s, awareness of the need for a inversion of the trend, in order to produce the right conditions for watercourses to resume their erosion of the bottom, transporting from upstream to downstream the materials needed to fill the imbalance caused in recent decades. It is a long work, which requires particular care in the management of the riverbeds.
Due to the contraction of the rock contributions by the water courses, long stretches of the coasts are subject to erosion, hence the retreat of the beaches. During the 1980s, the risk of sea level rise came to the fore. On the one hand, at least in the central and northern Adriatic belt, endogenous causes consisting of the lowering of the continental aquifer due to the withdrawal of water and hydrocarbons, and exogenous causes, since, following the increase in the temperature of the planet, the ocean cover levels tend to rise diffusely. These circumstances meant that, in the 1980s, the problem of coastal management was perceived as one of the most delicate and serious of the entire spectrum of environmental problems.
Of course, as the water cycle ends at sea, Italian seas have raised growing concerns about the alterations they have undergone. Aware that the improvement of the environmental conditions of the seas subject to national jurisdiction would not have been possible except in the context of a collaboration that involved the entire Mediterranean basin, during the seventies the Italy, together with France and Spain, exercised a appreciated action to promote intra-Mediterranean agreements. The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), established in 1972, did not take long to prepare the Regional Seas Program (1974) within which the Mediterranean was chosen as the first area in which to promote regional agreements (MAP,). In 1976, in Barcelona, the Convention for the protection of the Mediterranean from pollution was signed by all the countries bordering the basin. This cooperation tool has been enriched with four protocols: a) for the prevention of pollution from discharges from ships and aircraft (1976); b) to deal with pollution deriving from oil and other substances in the event of an emergency (1976); c) to protect the marine environment from land-based pollution (1980); d) to protect ” special areas ”, i.e. ecologically important or fragile areas (1984). A fifth protocol, relating to the protection of the marine environment from offshore industrial activity (in practice, from the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons) should come into force in the first half of the nineties.
According to the ratings of the Atlas of the Oceans, in the early 1980s, 10,000 tons of phosphorus per year, 70,000 tons of nitrogen, 10,000 tons of mercury and 3,000 tons of hydrocarbons were discharged in the central and southern Tyrrhenian Sea. More than one million tonnes of oxygen were needed to reduce the oxidizable non-organic substances released into the sea, and 370,000 tonnes of oxygen to attack the organic substances. Each year 85,000 tons of phosphorus, 250,000 tons of nitrogen, 45,000 tons of mercury and 4,000 tons of hydrocarbons were discharged into the Adriatic Sea. 1.6 million tonnes of oxygen were needed to eliminate discharges of inorganic substances and 800,000 tonnes for organic substances. 23,000 tons of phosphorus, 60,000 tons of nitrogen, 10,000 tons of mercury and the same number of hydrocarbons were discharged into the Ionian Sea. To attack non-organic substances, 600,000 tons of oxygen were needed; 200,000 were needed for organic substances. The marine space between Pisa and the Gulf of Lion constitutes one of the most delicate areas of the Mediterranean, at least for two reasons: firstly, because the coast, both Italian and French, is occupied by a strip of intense urban settlements, and welcomes a consistent number of ports of all sizes and important industrial areas; secondly, because considerable quantities of substances, especially organic ones, are released into the sea through the Rhone delta. 120,000 tons of phosphorus, 400,000 tons of nitrogen, 30,000 tons of mercury and 10,000 tons of hydrocarbons are discharged into this space. To reduce inorganic substances, 2.4 million t of oxygen are needed, and 900,000 t for organic substances. Equally considerable are the environmental alterations caused by the occupation of the Italian coasts. According to the MAP assessments, around 42 million residents have settled in the Italian coastal strips, equal to over 70% of the country’s population. Furthermore, in the Mediterranean area, the Italian coasts are those which – together with the coasts of Southeast France – have the highest density of oil refineries (over 5 million tons per year) and the highest density of steel, metallurgical and chemical industries. Almost the entire Italian coastal strip is classified as “with a high tourist density”. the Italian coasts are those which – together with the coasts of Southeast France – have the highest density of oil refineries (over 5 million tons per year) and the highest density of steel, metallurgical and chemical industries. Almost the entire Italian coastal strip is classified as “with a high tourist density”. the Italian coasts are those which – together with the coasts of Southeast France – have the highest density of oil refineries (over 5 million tons per year) and the highest density of steel, metallurgical and chemical industries. Almost the entire Italian coastal strip is classified as “with a high tourist density”.
At the end of the 1980s, the Italian population had over 3500 calories per capita so that, for food resources, it was part of a high-content area, which included the whole of Europe. On the southern side of the Mediterranean, such high availability was present only in Libya, Israel and Turkey. By average per capita income, the Italy, with nearly $ 19,000 a year (in 1991 according to World Bank estimates), is in a fairly high income bracket. In Europe, the country is in an intermediate position between countries that exceed $ 20,000 a year (Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, etc.) and countries with incomes still below $ 10,000 (Greece, Portugal, Eastern European countries,
Illiteracy has continuously decreased: in 1951 the illiteracy rate was 12.9%, while in 1991 it was 3%. This value led the Italy to be part of the European area with the lowest rate of illiterates.