HomeProgressThe Vetto dam to save the stable meadows of Parmigiano Reggiano

The Vetto dam to save the stable meadows of Parmigiano Reggiano

The stable meadows of Val d'Enza - 'the cradle of Parmigiano Reggiano'and other famous PDOs - have been waiting for the construction of the Vetto dam for over two centuries. To deal independently with the increasingly serious water shortage, through the direct withdrawal of the crystalline waters of the river Enza.

After 40 years of stubborn battles, the farmers of the mountain municipalities and civil society gathered to promote the sustainable development of the valley - thanks to drinking and irrigation water, as well as hydroelectricity in quantities, naturally offered by the dam - instead see the prospect of a miserable sop. Indeed, a mockery.

The Emilia-Romagna Region in fact hypothesizes to create a reservoir of 25-27 million cubic meters (mc). Just over 1/6 of the 147 million cubic meters that it itself estimated necessary in 2018. The food safety of fruit and vegetables and fodder depends on this choice, as does milk and Parmigiano Reggiano DOP, which still depend on river waters. Bit.

Vetto Dam, the initial project

It dates back to 1800 the visionary project of the Vetto dam, developed by Giuseppe Carlo Grisanti. 'In this project he lavished huge sums and a phenomenal activity, but all his energy and the enormous efforts made by him broke against the barrier set by ignorance, bad faith, envy, reluctance [...] to welcome new ideas even in
opposition to their interests', the diaries compiled at the time report. (2)

'He told himself that then the time was not ripe for this enterprise, but it seems that centuries are needed for us to develop ideas that are now common and put into practice all over the world since the most remote ages.
This vast project was not understood or wanted to be understood and it is remarkable that a large part sided with the opponents in support that the project was not practical, although they never saw it as a declaration of themselves (...).

Everyone recognizes the need to provide water; the value it has for agricultural production (…). It is difficult to be able to realize this phenomenon of oppositions against works that are recognized by the very opponents of absolute usefulness.(2)

Vetto Dam, the first developments

From generation to generation, the project of the 'Grisanti basin' to derive the waters of the Enza river was presented in 1863 to the Superior Council of Public Works, then integrated into the Engineering Faculty of the University of Rome and transmitted to the Ministry of Agriculture. With the idea of ​​building two dams, the Stretta di Vetto and the nearby Stretta delle Gazze, which would have allowed the irrigation of 11 hectares of land for at least 100 days a year.

The projects were approved by the Provincial Councils of Parma and Reggio Emilia in 1891 and 1892, the concession issued in 1907. In 1921 the Ministry of Public Works introduced the idea of ​​developing two hydroelectric plants which would supply, among other things, the Bologna railway lines -Milan and Parma-La Spezia. The State Railways were thus involved in the project to build two reservoirs of greater capacity, for a total of 100 million cubic meters, with two 25 and 6 mw power stations.

Pre-war perspectives

The size of the reservoirs it would have allowed the regular irrigation of 16 hectares of land, as well as providing abundant drinking water and renewable energy to local communities. And to ensure the constant flow of river water, 'eliminating the very serious problems that large floods produce downstream'. So as to save the huge annual expenses for the restoration of the damage caused by the hydro-geological instability.

in 1928 the provincial councils of Parma and Reggio signed an agreement with the hydroelectric company Val d'Enza and the minister secretary of state for public works approved the concession for the construction of the work. But the economic crisis decreed the halt of the works shortly after their start. The second war and subsequent reconstructions then caused the Enza river dams to be lost sight of.

From the first to the second Republic

in 1987 the Minister of the Environment Carlo Ripa di Meana declared the urgent need to build the Vetto dam for irrigation (127,7 million cubic meters), industrial and civil (47,8 million cubic meters) and hydroelectric uses. The exponent of the Greens - later appointed by Jacques Delors European Commissioner for the environment - fully grasped the environmental value of the work, in the need to preserve rather than waste the pure waters of the Enza. And to produce energy, clean moreover, instead of consuming it to pump the polluted waters of the Po up to the height of the Via Emilia.

Jobs they were thus started but promptly suspended on 16.8.89. Due to the instrumental opposition of pseudo-environmental and pseudo-consumerist associations - such as WWF, Codacons and the friends of the nutria - always very sensitive to the hidden sponsors. Only on 8.10.98 did the United Sections of the Court of Cassation resolve the dispute in favor of the dam. But the 80s had flown away, along with the tree public investment in infrastructure. And the work on the Vetto dam never resumed.

40 years of battles

40 years of battles, at the turn of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, saw the Promoting Committee of the Vetto Dam oppose a parasitic system that is rooted in the management (of dysfunction) of water. On the one hand, there are those who want to keep the pure water of the Enza river upstream, to use it where it is needed to irrigate stable meadows and their crops, as well as exploit the electricity that can be obtained from it. On the opposite side there are those who take sides, behind various flags, so that this water is wasted.

The why is simple, how illogical and perverse. The Enza valley has an average annual requirement of over 200 million cubic meters of water. The waste of water from the Enza river guarantees the continuity of the demand for water that the Consorzio di Bonifica Emilia Centrale withdraws downstream, from the river Po, to re-raise it upstream. Coins, powers and armchairs managed, in the specific case, by the magic circle of Coldiretti (3,4).

The Bonaccini water diet

in 2018 the technical table for the Val d'Enza of the Emilia-Romagna Region indicated the requirement of 47,8 million cubic meters / year for civil and industrial uses and 100 million cubic meters / year in reservoirs (54,2 million / cubic meters per year in the field) for cultivation and agricultural uses. Total requirement, 147,8 million cubic meters / year.

in 2020 the governor Stefano Bonaccini, however, has decided to apply a strict diet to 'The water resource in Val D'Enza'. (5) Starting from the 'raising awareness of water saving policies' and the 'transition to less hydro-demanding arable crops, safeguarding stable lawn surfaces'.

The water however, it can only be saved if there is a reservoir that holds it back in periods of abundance, otherwise the waters descend towards the sea. (Isaac Newton, law of universal gravitation, 1687). Bonaccini's water diet may therefore suffice for the cultivation of prickly pears, perhaps. But the Val d'Enza needs a real reservoir, adequate to the needs that were already clear starting from 1800, without depending on the raising of the polluted waters of the Po.

The policy of ponds

The policy of lakes it is obviously the one favored by Vincenzo Gesmundo, the head of Coldiretti's chiefs. Since it makes it possible to multiply feasibility studies and projects, financing and tenders, land enhancement, agreements with large suppliers (eg ENI, Enel), new management bodies and seats. Blue gold is the new frontier for draining public and private resources and exercising power, core business of Palazzo Rospigliosi (6,7).

But when agricultural businesses are active and the crops are those of tradition - as in Emilia-Romagna, the first region in the world for number and turnover of its PDOs and PGIs - the lakes are likely to empty in the first heat, to offer only the lunar vision of an empty reservoir. The litmus test of such a reckless policy, in Val d'Enza, that it has insisted on denying the water needs that have already been clear for at least two centuries.

The quality of water in agriculture

Surface water used for irrigation derive 81% from the reclamation network, explained a researcher in 2012 senior of the Canale Emiliano Romagnolo (CER). (8) The reclamation network 'it frequently performs the double function of drainage and irrigation'.

'All these sources water are potentially subject to alterations in the physico-chemical and microbiological conditions of various origins such as illegal discharges, infiltrations from landfills, untreated wastewater of urban or zootechnical origin, saline infiltrations and the introduction of pesticides (9) and nutrients.

In this situation agriculture appears as a source of pollution as regards the presence in the water of nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides and heavy metals deriving from their decay, but also as a victim of urban and industrial pollution.(8)

Waste water in agriculture

'In the near future- wrote the researcher of the Emilia-Romagna Canal in 2012 - 'it is also foreseeable that they will be mainly destined to the agricultural sector waste water deriving from purification plants, both for their productive reuse and for the possibility of exploiting the purifying capacities of the agricultural soil as a final treatment of the wastewater. (10)

In this general framework it is very essential to consider carefully the risks associated with the use of polluted water for irrigation purposes and above all to define a criterion for evaluating the impact they exert on soils and agricultural production'. (8)

Microplastics in agriculture

The first study on microplastics (MP) in wastewater destined for agriculture (Magni et al., 2019) was carried out in Lombardy. Downstream of one of the largest water treatment plants in Northern Italy, built in the early 2000s. (11) The researchers estimate that the plant in question - in treating approximately 400 cubic meters of wastewater every day - releases every day :

- in the receiving aquatic system (the Po river?) About 160 million MP / day,

- in the 30 tons of activated sludge recycled every day (also with agricultural destiny, eg fertilizers) about 3,4 billion microplastics.

Another study Italian taste (Oliveri Conti et al., 2020) has instead shown how microplastics and nanoplastics - in addition to being found in the air, water and various foods - also remain in fruit and vegetables. (12)

Provisional conclusions

Agri-food productions in the provinces of Parma and Reggio Emilia they are still entrusted to the energetic pumping of the waters of the Po, which are not exactly 'crystalline'. And to a lesser extent to groundwater, in turn in some cases not without uncertainties. The fodder for the dairy cows of the Parmigiano Reggiano and the pigs of the Parma ham PDO depend on this, as well as the tomatoes for preserves and the watermelon Reggiana IGP, among others.

The conformation of the Stretta di Vetto and the opening of the valley upstream make it possible to create a reservoir of about 102 million cubic meters with a relatively modest dam. (13) Enough to guarantee clean water upstream, protect the land downstream from flooding, prevent possible emerging risks for the Reggiana and Parmense agricultural supply chains.

The mountain reservoirs moreover, they return 80% of their water to the environment, through evaporation and return to the groundwater. In addition to allowing the production of renewable electricity, hydroelectric and perhaps even solar. (14) Ecological transition, food security and sustainable development of the territory. Also in terms of agritourism, bathing and inclusive water sports. And why not, create jobs in depopulated mountain areas.

#Clean spades, #digadiVetto.

Dario Dongo


(1) Giuseppe Carlo Grisanti's project and related drawings are now kept in Reggio Emilia, at the library
university of Via Allegri and the Studium Regiense Foundation
(2) Charles Baldi. Dam, a great work that needs to be built. Reggiana press, May 2010
(3) The Consorzio Bonifiche Emilia Centrale recorded total revenues for the core business of € 2020 million in 33,5, + 10,2% compared to 2019, with a profit of € 620 thousand.
(4) The provincial Coldiretti of Reggio Emilia has been commissioned by Palazzo Rospigliosi since 7.11.04, after the resignation of its last president Marino Zani. In these 7 years, 4/5 provincial directors and 6/7 commissioners, appointed by Vincenzo Gesmundo, have meanwhile changed. The current commissioner is Nicola Bertinelli, who is also President of the Consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano and of Coldiretti Emilia-Romagna, as well as the president of the national Coldiretti
(5) Po River District Basin Authority, Emilia-Romagna Region. The water resource in Val D'Enza. September 2020
(6) See paragraph A tragic reality, in previous article
(7) Dario Dongo. Germina Campus, the Coldiretti holding company that speculates on farmers. #Clean shovels. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.6.21/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/germina-campus-la-holding-di-coldiretti-che-specula-sugli-agricoltori-vanghepulite
(8) Adriano Battilani (2012). La water quality: a new variable in irrigation management. CER - ANBI reclamation consortium. The CER, Canale Emiliano Romagnolo, is one of the most important Italian hydraulic works. It ensures, through derivation from the river Po, the water supply of an area covering over 300.000 hectares
(9) Dario Dongo. ISPRA, 2020 report on pesticides in water. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.12.21/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/sicurezza/ispra-rapporto-2020-sui-pesticidi-nelle-acque
(10) Dario Dongo. Toxic sludge in the Genoa decree, repeal immediately. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.12.18/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/fanghi-tossici-nel-decreto-genova-abrogare-subito
(11) Dario Dongo. Microplastics in water and agriculture, first study in Lombardy. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 18.12.18/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/microplastiche-nelle-acque-e-in-agricoltura-primo-studio-in-lombardia
(12) Dario Dongo. Microplastics in fruit and vegetables. The Italian study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 21.6.20/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/sicurezza/microplastiche-dentro-la-frutta-e-la-verdura-lo-studio-italiano
(13) 320 meters long, 82 meters in the highest part. 20-25% less than the last dam (420 m, 103 m maximum height) built in Emilia-Romagna, in the 90s of the last century in Ridracoli (Bagno di Romagna, province of Forlì-Cesena)
(14) Switzerland's largest photovoltaic power station in the Alps is almost ready. Swiss TV. 21.8.21, https://bit.ly/3kj8kKr

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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