Civic Institutions: The Necessity of Reclaiming the Belice River

And now a very important observation:

The Belice aroused terror in the Poggiorealesi: in summer due to its malaria and in winter because of flooding. Often farmers lost their lives trying to cross the river at times of high waters! It is due to the Belice that this delightful area merited the title: malarial zone, However, malaria, has been totally and absolutely eradicated for about a decade, people could sleep on the banks of the river without any danger of anopheles, the air may be breathed freely without mosquitoes.

As for the terror of high waters, this is no longer a worry due to the very recent installation of reinforced concrete bridges that allow comfortable and safe passage from one bank to the other; add the new and beautiful roads that lead up to them… All this invites the Poggiorealese farmer to travel with assurance, and where joyful and he can enjoy the fertile vegetation of the enchanting riverbanks or dagale. No more than a path, in poor condition and broken down into bogs, impassable in many places. Agriculture for those areas is assured, favored by the possibility of movement in every season and especially in winter; the slow movement on mule’s back has been replaced by the swift transport of trucks. All thanks to the Regional Government who with genial patriotism and generosity has given a new face to Sicily. However, there is something very important that remains to be done.

The Belice descends in our territory transporting enormous quantities of silt and depositing it along the way and especially in the broadest areas of the river’s course, such as here in our territory.

These alluvial deposits, muddying the riverbed, diminish the capacity, so that the water, overabundant, produces flooding. The high water flows with gathering force, as a compact mass, thunderously advancing down its path which frightens even those who see it from afar. It floods, deposits mud, uprooted trees, detached pieces of earth forming islands and muddles the banks. Extensions of vineyards and reeds which are buried until spring, with so much damage for the lost growing time. Again: lands declining to the banks which are already planted are submerged under the mire where the grain rots if it is not removed; and there are serious damage to owners!

It is enough to say that in all points for the diverse formation or rupture it is not possible to determine the course of the river. In conclusion, the river bed is no longer where it used to be. The occasional construction of the Carbone bridge, of reinforced concrete, with 9 archways, each of 20.5 meters, the river bed has been found at the depth of 12 meters, so that up to that depth there are notably different strata, all of alluvial debris and silt, left on the stones. At that depth now can detect the presence of numerous human and equine skeletons and pieces of iron that seem to be the remains of weapons.

It is necessary therefore to dig to the bottom of the river bed, to regulate the ancient course of the river so that it may receive the necessary volume of water. The Reclamation consortium of the Belice have responsible relationships to the considerate urgings of the damaged proprietors.

The Community, with the Counsel Resolution of March 21, 1953, number 17, and March 13, 1955 number 13, has elevated its voice to obtain the necessary provisions. The Reclamation Consortium has been in operation for about 25 years, in the territory of Poggioreale, however it has not been able to furnish what is needed.

The Region, which has been rendered well-merited for the relationships in favor of Sicilian agriculture, resolves this age-old problem. What is needed is the establishment of the course of the river, the deepening and enlarging of the riverbed, retaining walls to prevent erosion and gouging out of the riverbanks.

The cry of the Poggioreale farmers, whose voice of alarm in the name of their town has known to give the stare the truth of things, will want to find a benign echo at the responsible Regional Authorities.

[This webpage is excerpted from the book: “The History of Poggioreale, Sicily – From 1640 to 1956.” Originally written in Italian by: Canonico Dottore Francesco Aloisio in 1956. Adapted and translated by: Dr. Jeremiah P. Spence, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas. 5th Edition. International Order of Genealogists Publishing. Ireland. 2019. ISBN: 9781072403371. The book can be purchased online at: https://www.amazon.com/History-Poggioreale-Sicily-1640-1956/dp/1072403374/ ]