26 de setembre de 2012
Italy's Cinque Terre under threat from mudslides and rockfalls
Governor of Liguria launches campaign to save seaside cliff villages by teaching Italians ancient dry stone walling techniques.
The Guardian (Regne Unit) [Cr˛nica]
Terraces above Vernazza, one of the five Cinque Terre villages in Liguria, Italy. Photograph: Alamy
Famed for its hidden fishing villages that cling to soaring cliffs and terraced vineyards that scale almost vertical slopes, Italy's Cinque Terre has long been a magnet for tourists and hikers. But it is facing an uncertain future after a series of deadly mudslides and rockfalls.
This week, four Australian tourists tackling the panoramic Trail of Love on the idyllic stretch of the Ligurian coast were seriously injured by cascading boulders, while 1,000 people were evacuated last October when mud surged through two of the area's five villages.
The disasters, says the governor of Liguria, are due to a gradual abandoning by farmers of the terraces above the villages and the subsequent collapse of ancient dry stone walls. And in a bid to overcome the problem, he has launched an audacious plan to convince young Italians to return to the land.
"These walls were built up over 1,000 years with huge effort, but they need to be maintained," Claudio Burlando said of the terraces, which are believed to contain as many stones as the Great Wall of China.
A postwar total of 140,000 farmers in the region of Liguria, which is squeezed between the Apennines and the Mediterranean Sea, has shrunk to just 14,000 today, a number Burlando said he wanted to boost with training courses for woodsmen, shepherds and, crucially, dry stone wallers.
"With the crisis we are losing industry jobs, so if we can train up 400 young people a year we are creating skills and saving the land," he said.
Unauthorised building, which blocks water courses, has also been blamed for flooding in Liguria, but Burlando said the rockfall that struck the four Australians was directly caused by crumbling stone walls.
"The slopes are about the steepest in Liguria and so the terraces are as narrow as two metres," he said. "If one wall goes down it takes down the next one like a house of cards. From out at sea you can see how many have collapsed."
After last year's mudslides, stones from walls were removed from debris in the villages, loaded on to helicopters and flown up the slopes to be replaced.
Burlando said he was planning legislation that would allow the region to send his young trainees on to private land to undertake repairs if the owner had abandoned it.
"Sometimes the owner is 95 and just can't take care of the land. Farming here isn't easy. It can be so steep your tractor risks falling into the sea," he said.
The plan would cover Liguria's woodland, he added, "where the undergrowth can be so overgrown it no longer absorbs the rain".
Burlando saw the plan as a chance to get Italians doing what their parents did. "A chain has been broken," he said. "We emptied out the countryside to fill the factories yet now we buy from Asia and the service industry is not enough."
Meanwhile, Albanian and Turkish immigrants are much in demand for their dry stone walling skills in Liguria. Italians are however beginning to reconsider agriculture, said Burlando. "A man who grows basil told me had just employed two Italians, something he had not done for 20 years."