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How the Venice MOSE Flood Barrier Project Became a Disaster in Itself

However, Venice remains vulnerable, as demonstrated by the tides that flooded the city last week and flooded piazzas, churches and hotels, leaving marble warehouses that eat away.

The city's € 6 billion flood barrier has been under construction since 2003 and would initially take eight years. Now, the best guess is that it will be completed in 2021 or 2022. Some experts say that given the pace of sea level, it can be outdated just decades after it began to work. Others wonder, given its sad history, whether the system will ever be ready. Parts of the underwater project are already corroding.

"I'm afraid it will never work, but I have to hope it will," said Marco Gasparinetti, a Venetian civic activist. "The alternative is to sell my home."

There are several explanations for the periodic and sometimes catastrophic floods in Venice: the inherent fragility of a city built over 1

18 islands; rising seas and uneven weather in connection with climate change; the shifting tectonic plates are believed to cause the land to decline; The dredging was carried out to make room for tankers and cruise ships.

However, many Venetians also describe the deeply erroneous effort to save their city.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said that if the planned barrier had been in operation, last week's injuries could have been avoided.

The project is known as MOSE – an Italian acronym for the Experimental Electromechanical Module and a reference to the biblical Moses who shared the ocean.

It consists of more than 70 massive, yellow underwater gates located across the three inlets separating the Adriatic Sea and the Venetian Lagoon. The gates are designed to rise under abnormally high tide and seal the lagoon.

At least that's the theory. The project has been reset by successive delays, cost overruns and political corruption.

Investigators determined in 2014 that project managers funneled taxpayers' money away from MOSE and used them to bribe politicians. Thirty-five people were arrested, including then-mayor Giorgio Orsoni and a former Italian prime minister, Giancarlo Galan.

"The delays are a completely Italian shame, and we need a solution quickly," said Chief Alessandro Morelli of a parliamentary transport committee.

Engineering experts have a greater concern: that the project, even after it comes online, will not function as the rescuer it was designed to be.

A prototype of MOSE was first tested in the 1980s, which corresponds to the legal age in the world of climate science, and the project was based on drastically outdated forecasts of how fast the sea can rise, according to a UNESCO report. Specialists are now talking about MOSE as a stop, something that could buy Venice a few decades while Italy comes up with another plan.

"The solution of MOSE is outdated and philosophically wrong, conceptually wrong," said Luigi D & # 39; Alpaos, a professor emeritus of hydraulics at the University of Padova, who has written a book on Venice. “MOSE may work quietly and without problems for 10 to 20 years. But then problems will arise, and it will be necessary to take other measures. ”

The intent behind the extendable gates was that when they were not needed, they would allow Venice to maintain its aesthetic feel and allow fishermen and other boats to get in and out of the harbor. More importantly, the Venice Lagoon uses the Adriatic Sea as a flushing valve, and its ecosystem would be jeopardized if sealed from the high sea.

However, based on forecasts of rising sea levels, in the foreseeable future they would need to be raised so often that they would function as an almost permanent wall.

D & # 39; Alpaos said that with the sea level only 50 centimeters higher, MOSE would need to be used almost every day. In that scenario, the barrier can be used to keep Venice dry. But it would also create a much less desirable city and turn the lagoon around Venice into a stagnant pool for algae and waste.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report said that sea level by 2100 will rise between 60 cm and 110 cm, or 2 to 3 ½ feet, if gas emissions continue to increase.

The consortium leading the MOSE project says that the barrier is designed to handle sea level increases up to 60 cm.

The floods in Venice are connected to tides, and in recent days water has flowed into the city once and sometimes twice a day. The repeated flooding, and the estimates that it will get worse, have caused some residents to despair over the city's future. During the first two decades of the 20th century, Venice saw high tide of more than 110 cm five times. Two decades into the 2000s, Venice has seen similar tides more than 130 times.

Pierpaolo Campostrini, the director of a group that manages Venice lagoon research, said that even if MOSE works for "20 or 30" years, it will be worth it, given the damage Venice faces when it floods.

"We have to take into account that these kinds of devastating events are not only material, but they affect the city's ability to continue to exist, as opposed to just being a museum," Campostrini said.

Campostrini said that would be easier to devise a long-term solution if Venice had some certainty that it would not flood so regularly.He cited a proposal from a University of Padova hydrologist that involves injecting seawater deep underground, orbiting Venice, in an effort to raise It was just a big idea under discussion, something that could be studied "when our feet are dry," he said. [Ofcoursetodothisyouneedseriousresearch"Campostrinisaid"ButthecostwouldbelessthanforMOSE"

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