This $7 Billion System Might Be The Last Chance To Stop Venice From Sinking Into The Sea


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Venice has been regularly flooded by high tide, or ‘acqua alta’ for centuries. But the problem may be getting worse, a recent study suggests.The city continues to sink about 0.08 inches each year, the report in the March issue of Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems claims. This contradicts previous studies, according to Italian newspaper Il Gazzettino. What’s worse, Venice is also apparently tilting eastward.

And while some question the report’s methodology, the Italian government is not taking any chances. Its new multi-billion dollar machine, built to combat the invasive sea waters, will make its debut next year. But is it all it’s cracked up to be? We take a look …

Venice sank 11 inches in the last century.

The city stretches across numerous islands in the Venetian lagoon along the Adriatic Sea. At high tide (acqua alta), parts of the city are flooded, and global warming and groundwater pumping is causing Venice to sink.

(Source: National Geographic)

The City has been working on a plan since the Great Flood of 1966.

5,000 people were displaced and $6 billion worth of artwork was damaged.

(Source: BBC)

Italy's biggest public works project was finally approved by then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in 2003.

The project was named MOSE, an acronym for 'Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico' and an allusion to the Old Testament story of Moses parting the Red Sea.

The project involves constructing 78 gates across the three inlets that feed the lagoon.

Its construction has employed 3,000 people


The largest gate will be 97 feet long, 66 feet high, and 15 feet thick. Each will weigh 250-300 tons.

The gates will rest at the bottom of the inlet. When a high tide is forecast, compressed air will be released into the hollow gates, making them rise and block the entrance of the tide.

The gates will be able to withstand a maximum high tide of 10 feet, and a rise of 24 inches in sea level.

But if global warming raises sea levels by 10 inches, MOSE will be needed at least 35 times a year by 2100.


MOSE has already cost the Italian government $7 billion, and maintenance costs will be at least $11.5 million a year.

Original building cost estimates were just $4.5 billion.

(Source: Christian Science Monitor)

Some scientists, politicians, and activists are against MOSE.

Protests and unease over costs have led completion to be delayed by a year to 2013.

Critics say the plan will damage the environment, and the system will be be difficult to maintain. The government is accused of never considering the alternatives.

(Source: NPR)

The 212 square-mile Venetian lagoon is the largest wetland in the Mediterranean. There is fear that digging for MOSE could turn the lagoon into a pond and damage its ecosystem.

The lagoon is a breeding ground for thousands of aquatic birds who migrate here in the winter.

(Source: Christian Science Monitor)

Some say the gates are only a short-term solution to a constantly escalating problem.

A plan propagated by politicians with an eye only on the next elections.

(Source: BBC)

If the gates fail, it may be up to UNESCO and the EU to step in to preserve Venice.

Here's more bad news for the environment.

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