Hydrogeological instability: 26 billion euros of interventions are needed to protect the soil


Emma Potter

Hydrogeological instability: alarming data

According to the CNI Study Center, the phenomenon of hydrogeological instability is particularly serious. On average there are more than 100 landslide events with damage to people and things every yearwith tips of over 300 destructive events in 2016.

Only in 2023 they had each other 5 flood events significant events including two serious episodes a few days apart in vast areas of Emilia Romagna, in the month of May, with a toll of 17 dead.

The national territory shows a notable fragilityin fact according to the latest available data, the 13.5% of the national territory is exposed to a high or medium landslide riskThe 15% of the territory is exposed to high or medium flood riskThe 4.1% of the population resides in areas with high flood risk, to which is added the11% residing in medium danger areas.

Investments and interventions

From 1999 to 2023, they were 17.2 billion euros invested in over 25 thousand interventions to combat disruption, with resource use showing a decline in effectiveness in recent years.

However, the Rendis platform Of Ispra underlines a needs not yet covered 26 billion euros for future interventions, a value that refers to approximately 8 thousand new works to combat landslides, floods and coastal erosion phenomena advanced by local authorities awaiting evaluation and which are considered as the “potential” of interventions to achieve an effective level of security preventively.

Governance and planning issues

The management of interventions suffers from one ineffective planning and implementationwith a excessive bureaucracy and prolonged authorization times which slow down mitigation operations. This translates into a reduced capacity for prevention, despite accurate knowledge of the area's points of fragility.

The role of climate change and land consumption

Climate change worsens the situation, with violent rains alternating with periods of drought that trigger disasters in an already compromised territory. L'waterproofing and soil consumptionwhich in 2022 reached i 19.4 hectares per dayfurther worsen the soil's ability to manage water, increasing the risk of catastrophic events.

In 2022, according to the data Ispraland consumption through roofing, concreting and waterproofing of various types has reached a high level 76.8 km2 increasing compared to the past; net of restored (i.e. reusable) land, consumption stands at 70.8 km2but unfortunately the phenomenon appears to be growing.

“Remedial” engineering

It is essential review the intervention methods and invest in one quality design and in preventive strategies rather than limiting itself to emergency management. Restorative engineering and collaboration between technical professionals can offer new solutions for a more sustainable approach to hydrogeological risk. The day of reflection organized by the CNI is a step towards the reconsideration of current policies and practices.

In summary, despite the progress made in identifying and financing the interventions necessary to mitigate hydrogeological risk, much remains to be done to ensure effective prevention and sustainable management of the territory.

Domenico CondelliCNI advisor, declared: “a phase transition is necessary on the part of engineers and geologists, and more generally of technical professionals, involved in the fight against instability: we have the skills and techniques to do it. Our scope of intervention must increasingly be that of “remedial” engineeringcapable of taking care of resources and triggering a new method of combating hydrogeological instability”.

From the press release by Antonio Felici, head of the Press Office of the National Council of Engineers