Carrara and the hydrogeological risk

An article on Carrara's hydrogeological risk for our series dedicated to the environmental problems of Carrara and the Apuan Alps

Third appointment with the series on the environmental problems of the Apuan Alps, and today in particular we want to focus on the hydrogeological risk of the city of Carrara and surrounding areas(Massa, Ortonovo, Sarzana... ). We have all seen the damage caused by the recent floods in the Apuan territory: Carrara has been hit twice, the first time on the night of November 10-11 this year, and the last time just this night, with “results” similar to those of the San Martino flood.

On the website of the Municipality of Carrara it is possible to download and observe the hydraulic hazardmaps1 of the municipality’s hamlets, and there are indeed many areas classified as high hydraulic hazard area or very high hydraulic hazard area. Almost the entire old area of Marina di Carrara, the entire hamlet of Battilana (already hard hit during the San Martino flood), the portions of the historic center adjacent to the Carrione stream, the entire historic part of the hamlet of Avenza, and the entire neighborhood of Nazzano, and the list could get even longer.

One of the main causes of this continuous pressure to which the Apuan territory is subjected could be identified in theneglect and lack of attention to the territory, a cause that some believe is also behind theLa Spezia flood of October 25 last year, which also affected vast areas of the province of Massa and Carrara and cost the lives of several people. In the aftermath of last year’s tragic events, Ligurian geologist Giuliano Antonelli explained to Il Fatto Quotidiano that “the protection of the territory must be a priority” and that the same protection "is a cultural issue and we need to be aware that hydrogeological disruption has an enormous cost."2

And so, many locate this neglect in the inadequate maintenance of riverbeds and streams: the recent floods of the Magra gave a way to see how tree trunks, branches and debris accumulated in the rivers creating “obstruction situations” and therefore going to cause flooding andflooding3, but not only that, because the debris dragged by the river also caused subsidence and collapse of bridges. Among the bridges that collapsed during the events of October 25, 2011, one cannot fail to mention the Colombiera Bridge, which had recently been renovated and which gave way precisely because of the pressure of debris and pieces of yachts dragged away from nearby construction sites.4 This risky situation would also affect Carrara’s historic bridges (such as the Bridge of Tears, the Bridge of the Lie, or the Baroncino Bridge), all bridges with evocative names, centuries old and therefore also important from a historical and cultural point of view. And again, neglect often results in building interventions and constructions that alter the hydrogeological balance of the territory: interventions that could be the cause, for example, of the Lavacchio5 tragedy (in the municipality of Massa) that occurred in 2010. And according to Vincenzo Tongiani, president of Coldiretti in the province of Massa and Carrara, the recent Apuan flood is said to be the price of "years of building abuse and unrestrained cementing"6. After all, it is well known that cementing the territory is one of the main causes of hydrogeological instability7.

Then, in Carrara and surrounding areas, there is another possible cause that could be at the root of flooding events. This cause would be found in themining activity of marble quarries. In fact, the debris that accumulates on the mountains, which comes frommarble quarrying and which we also discussed in theintroductory article of this series on the environmental problems of Carrara and the Apuan Alps, could "occlude the riverbeds with their sludge."8 Last year, the Municipality of Carrara had issued twenty warnings against quarry concessionaires responsible for deficient disposal ofdebris ,9 and following the disastrous flood in Carrara on September 23, 2003, which cost the life of one person and caused a great deal of damage in the municipal area, aninvestigation was set in motion to determine the responsibilities of the political and business world, 10 which eventually resulted in the identification of 24 defendants for crimes ranging from culpable disaster tomanslaughter.11 The trial ended in 2011 with the court issuing a “judgment of non-prosecution,” thus sanctioning the statute of limitations for the crime for all defendants, to the disappointment of relatives of the woman who disappeared during the flood, who spoke of "a defeat for the city."12

What are the solutions? Legambiente Carrara, in a recent report on the hydrogeological risk of the Municipality of Carrara, tried to propose a few, keeping in mind that “land redevelopment is the real and greatest public work the country needs,” and reflecting on the fact that probably the first measure to be taken is to avoid building in flood-prone areas13. Even for those of us who are involved in art history, land and landscape protection must be a priority: in addition to the damage in terms of human loss and material loss, our historical and art-historical heritage also depends on it. To make the idea better, we offer a link to a photograph of Alberica Square, the main square in Carrara’s historic center, taken tonight. What you see is the monument to Maria Beatrice d’Este, who ruled the Duchy of Massa and Carrara between 1790 and 1769: the monument is one of the most important and well-known of the city, one of its symbols. A demonstration of how one cannot devote oneself to art history without thinking about the territory, especially when that territory is one’s own.

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1. Hydrogeological risk maps for the Municipality of Carrara can be downloaded by going to this link.

2. Federico Simonelli, Liguria Flood: “When I turned around, the Monterosso road was a raging river,” from Il Fatto Quotidiano, October 26, 2011

3. After a month since the flood, the river neglect situation in the Spezzino and Lunigiana areas remains as it is, from Varese7Press, Dec. 13, 2011

4. See Benedetto Marchese, Colombiera Bridge, collapse caused by debris and yacht pieces , from City of La Spezia, October 26, 2011

5. Cf. Anna Pucci, The geologists’ alarm: "Lavacchio is at risk of landslides," from La Nazione, November 8, 2010.

6. Cf. Massimo Vanni, After the fear, the anger. Voices from the flood, from Repubblica - Florence, November 8, 2010.

7. Cf. Geologists of Lazio. Landslides, floods, earthquakes, natural events that become disruption when they affect man-made areas due to irresponsible land use policies, press release on the website of the National Council of Geologists, November 17, 2012.

8. Cf. Italy, you are a landslide. But it’s not your fault V installment, from Sgrunt!- Isabella Schiavone’s blog, Nov. 20, 2011, and “Tragedy could repeat itself” Salviamo le Apuane alert: Carrara and hamlets at risk of flooding - The conference. Professors point the finger atlescavazione, from Il Tirreno, Nov. 14, 2011.

9. Cf. Cinzia Carpita, Quarries at risk of blocking activity, from Il Tirreno, Nov. 26, 2011.

10. Cf. Carrara Flood. The investigation, from La Nazione, March 16, 2007.

11. Cf. Carrara: 2003 flood. Hearing postponed until July, from The Nation, March 11, 2010.

12. Cf. Alessandra Vivoli, No one will pay for the 2003 flood, from Il Tirreno, Feb. 10, 2011 and Died in the 2003 flood, crime prescribed for 22 defendants, from ANSA, June 1, 2011.

13. See Carrara: a healthy idea of development is needed after the flood, from Legambiente Carrara, November 20, 2012.