General presentation of the strait
The Strait of Messina, located at the centre of the Mediterranean, connects Sicily to Europe and constitutes a bridge towards Afro-Asian countries of North Africa and Middle East. Historically the strait represents a connection between East and West, North and South in the Mediterranean Sea, which is the symbol of a natural context surrounded by culture. It is unique thanks to the shape of its landscape, its image as a mythical land, its function as an invaluable science laboratory due to its natural and historical features (thalassographic, seismic, biological).
Description of the strait
Both history and myth, identified at this point "the Strait" which joins / unites the two ancient cities of Magna Graecia: Zancle (the Messina of today) and Reghion - (the actual Reggio Calabria), a link between the eastern and western civilizations in a context characterized by natural phenomena that are also described in the Homeric poems. The hydrogeological conditions of the Strait of Messina are peculiar and its flora and fauna are equally uncommon. The intense hydrodynamism and the chemical characteristics of its waters affect the entire environment to the point of creating an extraordinary ecosystem, which is unique in the Mediterranean Sea for its biocenosis and abundance of species. This is why the Strait of Messina constitutes a unique source of biodiversity. Moreover, the Strait of Messina is located along one of the main migration routes of the Mediterranean and it is a key transition point for the migration of several species, including birds and sea fish. The strait is also known as one of the highest expression of sea civilization in terms of fishing methods dating back to the Greek period and as a crossroad of historical events. The main aim of the strait’s mobility is an integrated type of mobility combining all four modes of transport – road, railway, ports and airports– which can guarantee a continuity lacking today and can contribute to the creation of a gateway to national and European markets. The strait includes six ports: Gioia Tauro, Milazzo, Messina, Villa San Giovanni, Reggio Calabria and Tremestieri. Each facility has its own specificity but they should all be considered as part of a network. The strait therefore represents a gateway region offering a high quality service both in terms of local and international transport thanks to its strategic position in the Mediterranean. In this sense the “Sea Highway”, particularly the fast link between Messina and the Airport of the Strait in Reggio Calabria, plays a significant role in reinforcing the connection between the two shores as well as making this area more accessible to tourists. The strategic position of the strait at international level represents a key value to transform this area into a logistics platform in the local-global relations. The territories of the Province of Messina and the Province of Reggio Calabria, as they have identical geo-climatic conditions, attract significant tourist traffic and are strategic tourist areas in southern Italy.
Cross-boundary cooperation in the strait
In the last decades the governance of the integrated strait area has been debated first in terms of a scientific approach and later in terms of local policies. According to the principles and contents of the 2001 European Commission White Paper “European Governance”, such a complex territorial system requires an adequate model of governance that guarantees self-centred and self-generating processes of development. It gives to public and private agents the opportunity to play a strategic role in enhancing the peculiarities and skills within a broad project including both sides of the strait. In recent years a series of agreements among various institutions, including provinces, chambers of commerce, universities, offices of the navy league, professional associations, operating on both sides, have been signed. One of the agreements that has been put into practice is the creation of the Strait of Messina Maritime Authority, which is responsible for security, surveillance and monitoring of maritime traffic. The Province of Messina and the Province of Reggio Calabria, in terms of governance can play an important role in bringing a significant political change thanks to projects aimed at creating "The Strait Region".
Main environmental challenges of the strait
The main environmental challenges, inalienable key objectives, are related to preserve the flora and fauna, the rational arrangement of the slopes and river beds, as well as the conservation of springs, aquifers, coastlines and more generally air, sea and lakes. In particular, we must address the factors of human pressure: land use, transport (air emissions, noise, impact on the landscape), energy (energy consumption, renewable generation), waste (solid waste and special), tourism (either coastal or inner). Particular attention should be given to environmental components: air, climatic factors (air emissions, concentration levels of pollutants), water and marine environment (quality marine-coastal waters, quality of surface water bodies, water management), soil and subsoil (seismic and hydrogeological risks), nature and biodiversity, landscape and cultural heritage.
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