Rebecca Helm-Ropelato
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Monday, September 24, 2007
What's Kind of New About The Tiber
Birds gather at sunset among grasses near the Tiber's Vittorio Emanuele II bridge in Rome Birds gather at sunset among grasses near the Tiber's Vittorio Emanuele II bridge in Rome

It was outcast, isolated from view, circumscribed and contained between massive walls and high embankments, and polluted with every imaginable type of rubbish. Nevertheless, the Tiber is alive, full of life and with a very ancient history still not completely told. (translation)
This is the current assessment of Marevivo, an Italian environmental association with its Rome-based, head office literally afloat on a pontoon in the Tiber (photo here). The river, il Tevere in Italian, originates in the northern Apennines mountains in the Emilia Romagna region and flows approximately 240 miles before winding into Rome and ending at the Mediterranean coast nearby.
Monitoring who's doing what to the river and when is one of Marevivo's activities. This includes keeping an eye on how clean-up of the pollution is coming along, and raising awareness among Rome residents and tourists about the Tiber's fabled history, and its native flora and fauna.
In its Teveredamare project online, Marevivo provides information about the natural environment, history and construction aspects of the many bridges crossing the Tiber in Rome (here, scroll down for English version; complete list of bridges -- ponte in Italian -- top right).
The Tiber's Top Two Problems
Pollution: In July 2002, tons of dead fish floated to the surface of the three-mile stretch of the Tiber that flows through the center of Rome. Officials were of mixed opinion about the exact cause (see this story for details), but no one could deny that certainly something seriously was amiss.
The Tiber in the fall, with Rome's Ponte Sisto bridge in the distance The Tiber in the fall, with Rome's Ponte Sisto bridge in the distance
Floods: In late November 2005, fire officials began evacuating Rome residents from homes near the river after the Tiber threatened to overflow its banks as a result of heavy rains in the central region of Italy. According to a news report (this also from, the river rose to its highest level in fifty years.
Improvement On The Way
So how are things going with the cleaning up of the Tiber river near Rome? A fairly recent update comes in these excerpts (translated) from an article, A Filter to Clean Up The Tiber, by Fabio Rossi published last November in Il Messaggero, a major daily newspaper in the city.
A movable barrier to rescue the Tiber from debris coming down from the Aniene (a 61-mile tributary originating in nearby mountains to the northeast), and in so doing to limit pollution and the risk of flooding in the heart of Rome. And a series of bridges and walking and bicycle paths to restore the relationship between the city and its river. All of this in a high level, technical guide that is a compendium of fifteen years of intense work by the Autorità di bacino del Tevere (ABT) (Tiber River Basin Authority).
The presentation of the book “Il Tevere a Roma.” Portolano (Italian only), was held to focus attention on the work that is underway to resolve the age-old problems of the celebrated waterway that, in good times and in bad, has marked the history of Italy's capital city. ABT has produced an indispensable analytical tool for those working to take care of and salvage the river's eco-system, and a manual for all the environmental and the hydro-geological connections to the Tiber.
“The volume provides a tool of interdisciplinary knowledge of the urban stretch of the Tiber river,” explained Roberto Grappelli, secretary general of the ABT.
The article also includes a quote of Rome's mayor, Walter Veltroni, from his introduction to the ABT book (translation): “In recent years,” the mayor wrote, “the Tiber and its surrounding territory have been the focus of an intense program of environmental recovery, with an emphasis on enhancing their value as a zone rich in spaces for cultural and recreational activities. The work of reclamation is now going forward with, above all, methods for the removal of waste materials from the river... guaranteeing a higher level of cleanliness of the superficial waters.“
by Rebecca Helm-Ropelato
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