Madame Mayor, Authorities,
I accepted with pleasure the invitation extended to me by Minister Galletti to attend the closing session of this meaningful international conference that has convened - along with Government officials and experts - also the Basin Authorities of the world's major rivers, in order to tackle a theme - the relationship between water and climate - that is growing increasingly important for all of humankind.
In thanking you for having stimulated such an interesting and articulate debate, allow me to emphasise the deep-felt necessity of leaving room to explore these topics that, too often, some think it possible to limit to a theoretical, almost abstract, discussion while instead they have a great tangible impact on the living conditions of most of the people on the planet.
Waterways represent the ways along which the biosphere spread and the world's civilisations met.
There is a fact that characterises the historic phase we are living: the widespread awareness of the dimension and of the unprecedented scope of the problems facing society. Problems that - in terms of dimension and complexity - constantly extend beyond the borders and capacities of single Countries and that need coordinated responses at a level that is necessarily supranational, and ever-more often, global.
The relationship between climate change and the availability of water resources is among the issues that require concerted action in their own right which, starting with the behaviour of single citizens - for instance by combating wastage - now, after passing through all the components of society and institutions, comes to inevitably require cooperation at international level.
Water is an essential and inalienable right of each and every inhabitant of our planet, a fundamental life-giving element that is essential for our very existence: our health and our food security depend on water.
This is the reason why the right to water was meaningfully and explicitly recognised by the United Nations to belong to the category of the human rights that, in addition to being important per se, are essential for the enjoyment of other rights.
Water and waterways, and their individual and collective use - spanning from the connection to the water supply system, to the navigability of rivers, its use in agriculture, industry and energy production - continue to constitute the grounds for most of our planet's growth and development capacity and potential. And they also continue to constitute the grounds for peace, especially where water has - too often - been the reason of bloody conflicts.
The need for renewed international cooperation to protect water and the availability of adequate water resources is even more strongly felt today. On the one hand, population growth and economic development, often associated with very high levels of pollution, have considerably increased the "demand" for water.
On the other hand, the challenge posed by climate change has modified the conditions for fair and unconditional access to water.
Prolonged and recurring drought, just as the ever-more frequent phenomenon of flooding, provoked by atmospheric phenomena of unprecedented intensity, even compared to the recent past, every day put at risk the life and the possibility of survival of entire communities.
It is a condition that once only concerned a few restricted regions of the world and that instead today is shared by an ever-larger portion of the global population.
We are all called on to cooperate because the failure to respond, motivated by a false perception of the "remoteness" of the problem, is a short-sighted and dangerous option. Indifference and the lack of global vision only end up by aggravating the difficulties.
Suffice it to think of the tight connection that exists between the desertification of entire territories and the migration phenomenon, which constitutes one of the biggest challenges of our contemporary world.
In an effort to quantify the impact of climate change, it is sufficient to recall the survey by the International Monetary Fund which estimates - for the Countries in the tropics - a negative impact of up to one point of GDP in view of a one-degree rise in average temperature.
The environment and its protection have a tangible, measurable effect on our lives and above all on the future of our youth. Handing them down a depleted planet would constitute a seriously reckless behaviour.
Italy, which was among the first nations to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement, has wholeheartedly proposed and supported, also within the European Union, an effort aimed at spurring the whole international community to adopt a coordinated and incisive response, with a view to setting up more stable and long-term partnerships, especially between our Continent and Africa.
Within this context, in which everyone is called upon to give a convinced and unreserved support, the experience and good practices of those - like you - devote your days to preserving the vitality of waterways, become an essential factor.
The effort to establish closer cooperation between Basin Authorities, which is one of the most relevant results of today's meeting, constitutes an authoritative indication on the path to take in tackling the challenges that I have mentioned thus far.
The hope for the future is to involve these same Authorities in the mechanisms envisaged by the Climate Change Conferences, with the aim of making available to all the in-depth, diversified and valuable pool of experiences on the basis of which to analyse problems and seek solutions.
This is why I am certain that the "Rome Document" that you have adopted will make a positive contribution to the ongoing international debate ahead of the next "Conference of the Parties" on climate change, in which we hope that the issues associated with access to water may receive the utmost and urgent attention they deserve.
Honourable Ministers, Authorities, Delegates,
The creation of a full-fledged "network" including all those who devote their daily lives to managing water resources is important for another two reasons.
It is important because it serves to urge public Authorities, at every level of responsibility, to allocate to rivers sufficient resources to accomplish the periodical infrastructure interventions that waterways need.
It is a necessity that ongoing climate phenomena - long periods of drought followed by intense rainfall - turn into an imperative. Only through targeted and capillary maintenance work, scheduled interventions, and continuous adjustments to changing conditions - also from the point of view of the quality of water, as it is increasingly at risk of suffering the effects of ever-more insidious sources of pollution - will we be able to assure the continuous and, above all, safe use of this indispensable resource everywhere in the world.
It is a challenge of epochal dimensions, similar to the large works built over the centuries. And it requires farsightedness.
Indeed, to think of limiting interventions to strategies aimed at compiling a list of the problems raised by the emergency would only mean aggravating the difficulties in the long run, producing an impact on the very availability of water resources.
Many problems are raised by urban conglomerates, which often grow to be oversized. To merely adjust the water supply to meet growing demand, whether it be for civil use, agriculture, or energy production, seems to be nonsensical.
In any case, it would imply a vain run-up to meet growing demand for a diminishing resource.
A solution sought through the increased construction of artificial catchment areas and the management of water resources appears nonetheless to be precarious and transitory, as it would worsen the local water balance, further modifying the fluvial environment, where on the contrary, the priority must be to reduce the hydrogeological risk and protect river ecosystems, also through the renaturalisation of waterway margins.
A second option, consistent with this perspective, is innovation. We must optimise the use of water while maintaining the quality standards intact: this balance can only be struck by dedicating more efforts to research and to the dissemination of good practices in a context in which renewed public-private partnerships, with the support of the international organisations represented here today, would certainly constitute an effective formula.
In fact, we must achieve tangible results as quickly as possible.
Joining the "Alliance of Italian Companies for Water and Climate Change" therefore represents a significant step that could also be effectively replicated in other contexts.
The sustainable management of water, which is crucial for the existence of humankind, cannot do without a concerted and concrete effort made through full-fledged and coordinated international cooperation. May there be no more conflicts over water but a joint effort to have water contribute to assure the development and wellbeing of all the people of the world.