Top or flop? Venice tests flood protection

Top or flop? Venice tests flood protection

Slowly, yellow barriers appear on the smooth surface of the water. On this calm summer’s day, nothing at all reminds us of high water here. But the "mose" flood protection system – like a bible prophet – is supposed to protect venice from devastating floods in the future.

Today, the project was fully tested for the first time and nearly 80 mobile flood barriers were deployed at three lagoon entrances. It is a symbolic moment for venice. The politicians were correspondingly coarse. Even head of government giuseppe conte came to open the test in the control room.

From the outside, "mose" (modulo sperimentale elettromeccanico) looks rather unspectacular. The control room is housed in a gray concrete colossus on an island near the lido. It is not immediately obvious that high-tech should protect the unesco world heritage site here. It’s only when you look underground that you get a glimpse of what a complicated undertaking this is. Rough, shiny stainless steel pipes and gray hoses run through a 400-meter-long corridor. Compressed air is to lift the barriers out of the water at high tide, which will then keep adriatic water out of the lagoon and protect the city from "acqua alta.

The project is expected to cost around six billion euros – and many fear more. Planning has been underway for decades, and the first sod was turned about 17 years ago. But corruption, bureaucracy, a lack of decision-making, and political and economic self-interest are a toxic mix that has dragged "mose," like so many other large-scale construction projects in italy, out to almost infinity. "It’s right to have doubts," said conte. But now everyone should be working towards the goal of finally completing the project.

Venice’s mayor luigi brugnaro considers "mose" a great "achievement" and the symbol of italian "ingenuity". "I’m a fan of this facility," he confesses. But even he knows how delicate the project is. Recently, tests had revealed technical difficulties because sand had affected the function of the barriers. So the fear of a flop is not unjustified. "We are talking about a gigantic project that no one in the world has done before," brugnaro told the newspaper "la stampa". He blames the previous chaos on "philosophers" and "intellectuals" in politics who know nothing about technology.

There are enough opponents of the flood protection facility in venice. If you just say the word "mose," you either get a shrug of the shoulders or a resigned dismissal in response, or a lengthy explanation about environmental protection and the delicate balance in the lagoon, as well as about the incompetence of politicians in general. "After the floods of 12. November 2019 they told us that mose was the only solution to save venice: it’s a shaming luge. Moses will kill the lagoon, it will destroy this unique and fragile ecosystem," said the alliance no grandi navi, which also opposes cruise ships in the lagoon. Some opponents therefore also took to the water on friday to protest. Some fear that "mose" could have endangered the city even more and finally flooded it with a "tsunami".

But that venice needs flood protection was recently made clear by the flood last fall. On 12. On november the water rose to 187 centimeters above normal and flooded most of the old town, destroying cultural monuments, museums, archives and scaring away tourists on whom venice lives. It was a wake-up call for everyone about the dangers facing what is arguably the world’s most beautiful city.

Because climate change is threatening venice, scientists have been warning about this for a long time. "Mose" is "good news for the world," said water expert giovanni cecconi, who teaches at the universitat ca foscari in venice. "Venice will be the first lagoon to let in water only when needed. But we already have to think beyond moses." Venice is exposed to an accelerated rise of the water level due to climate change. "What used to rise in a century, now rises in 25 years"."

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