A small town in northern Italy is celebrating the arrival of its first baby since the 1980s.
The mayor of Ostana, which lies in the mountains of the Piedmont region, says the new arrival is a “dream come true” for the tiny community, which has seen its population plummet over the past 100 years. Baby Pablo, who was born in a Turin hospital last week, takes the number of inhabitants to 85, although only about half live there permanently, La Stampa newspaper reports.
Mayor Giacomo Lombardo says that while 1,000 people called Ostana home in the early 1900s, a steady drop in the birth rate began after World War Two. “The real decline started in 1975, with 17 babies between 1976 and 1987, when the last boy was born – until little Pablo,” he says.
Ostana is trying to reverse the depopulation trend, primarily by creating new jobs. Pablo’s parents, Silvia and Jose, had themselves planned to move abroad five years ago, but stayed put when offered the chance to manage the nearby mountain refuge.
Some feel the family’s story bodes well for other mountain communities. “They are individual choices, but they multiply,” says Marco Bussone from the The National Union of Mountain Towns and Communities. He wants new rules such as tax exemptions for businesses to help communities to regenerate.
Small towns across Italy are battling against depopulation, as young people move out to find work. Some have tried to reverse the trend by giving away empty houses for free, while one mayor focused his efforts on stopping the existing population from declining by “banning” residents from falling ill.
In Ostana, Pablo’s arrival is being marked with a party and, according to La Stampa, a model stork at the entrance to the town with a small blue bundle in its beak.
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