13th November, 2019 – Venice is in the news today and it’s not for a good reason. Flooding overnight has once again created a dramatic, difficult and very sad situation for many Venetians…..
In October and November of each year a combination of factors makes flooding in Venice much more likely. Over the last few days, heavy rain, high winds and high tides have created a deadly cocktail of wild weather that has led to extensive flooding throughout the historic city of Venice. Everyone knows that Venice is in a unique and delicate situation. It is a city of extraordinary beauty, a repository of art and architecture unique in the world. It is a city marooned between land and sea. However every so often the natural lagoon that has protected Venice from destruction so many times over the centuries cannot hold back the waters of the Adriatic. Last night was such an example. Winds of 127 km per hour were recorded, branches were broken from trees and garden funiture flew through the air. The waves in the Northern Adriatic were huge, rolling onto the beach of Lido di Venezia and destroying a man-made sand barrier built to protect the beach and the thousands of beach huts that are used every summer.
FLOODING has been widespread. St Mark’s Square, one of the lowest and most vulnerable parts of the city was inundated. No doubt further damage to the mosaics and exquisite medieval floors of the basilica will be reported later today. Meanwhile ordinary Venetians have to get out their mops and buckets as they always do and without complaining start the clearing up process. Yet again.
I noticed that water levels yesterday evening reached 187 centimetres, just a few short of the great flood of 1966. So what is the City of Venice and Italy as a country doing to prevent such regular flooding events? Especially given that climate change is likely to increase extreme weather events in the coming years. Can we prepare better for these ‘violent weather conditions’ and the answer is that a great deal can and should be done to protect Venice both now and in the future.
MOSE – The word on every Venetian’s lips this morning is ‘MOSE’ this is an acronym referring to the flood barrier that has been under construction at the mouth of the Venetian Lagoon for the last twenty years. MOSE means ‘Module Sperimentale Elettro Meccanico’ in other words an experimental, mechanical device, powered electrically, that in theory can be raised from the bottom of the lagoon and prevent high water levels from flooding Venice. However, tragically the project has been troubled, to say the least. Construction started in 2003. Ten years in there was a huge police investigation, 35 people were arrested and another 100 were charged with embezzlement of public funds, and the disappearance of tens of millions of euros. Many of these individuals are now in prison. At the end of 2014 the state intervened and underwrote the whole project. Many suspect that the elements of the MOSE already in place under the sea are already rusted and non-operational. Whilst others will tell you that, in theory, the barriers should be operational by 2022. It seems to me that a team of hydraulic engineers from Holland should be urgently recruited. After all the Dutch are masters of ‘flood control’ and have managed much of their territory, which lies below sea level, for centuries.
THE VENETIANS ARE TOUGH AND BRAVE – In the meantime the poor Venetians suffer and keep mopping up. Today will be a day of cleaning, drying and organising shops, offices and homes. No wonder the overall population of Venice is decreasing year on year. How would I cope with a home that is flooded several times a year; the cost, anxiety and practical difficulties are just enormous. I’d like to call on the Italian government, Veneto region and the Mayor of Venice to work together, effectively and speedily to recognise the urgency of this problem and to provide a solution. Ideally a functioning MOSE – in the shortest possible time. This is, at the very least, what the Venetian people deserve and incidentally, have already paid for many times over. Action is required and it is required now.
MOSE – the green floating barge in the background is part of the MOSE construction project – very little action was observed there over the summer.
- The author is a travel writer, travel company owner and Italophile.
- Specialist travel in Italy www.grand-tourist.com
- Travel articles in Italy, The Alps, British Isles www.educated-traveller.com
- To be fair and balanced the CPSM (Centro Previsioni e Segnalazioni Maree) provides excellent daily meteorological updates. You can follow them on Twitter CPSM Venezia or www.comune.venezia.it/maree
- They are brilliant and thorough.
Written: 13th November, 2019
and last night a very violent storm.