Venice’s MoSE dam project facing legitimate and illegitimate criticisms
Venice’s mobile dam project has been mired in controversy over the last 30 years with environmentalists usually opposing it while many Venetians hope the dams will significantly reduce high flooding in Venice and islands throughout the lagoon.
This week the project faced new criticisms as it approaches completion, estimated for 2017. Firstly, it was claimed that the dams will be unable to protect low-lying areas of Venice, including the iconic St Mark’s Square, from floods which measure 80 cm on the local tide meter. Yet the project was only designed to block high tides above 110 cm on the tide meter. Raising the dams more frequently for flood levels of 80-90 cm would be likely to increase pollution in the lagoon and other environmental problems because the lagoon would be frequently closed to the sea. Therefore, although it is true that the dams will not stop lower-level floods, they were never designed for this purpose. So this criticism, which was reported in The Venice Times in this link, is illegitimate;
Nevertheless, legitimate criticisms have been made about the lock created so that vessels can enter and leave the lagoon when the dams are closed. This lock was a vital adaptation to the project so that Venice’s port could continue to function even when the dams are raised. However, this report this week has noted that the lock has been constructed too small for larger vessel to navigate through it;
Trials with the lock, which is situated at the Malamocco inlet, have been conducted since June 2014. But so far only smaller cargo vessels have successfully used it. Now there are suggestions that the lock will need to be modified for larger vessels, even though they would be able to enter and leave the lagoon when the dams are not raised. Inevitably, such modifications would require more funding and further delays to this project. These problems would only exasperate the widespread concern about the dams following corruption scandals that have been revealed about the project. These scandals were previously explained in this previous blog post;
Although the project is now mired in corruption and scandal, its final phase should still be completed. To stop the project now would be a huge waste of resources, jeopardise thousands of jobs for people working on the dams and related projects and mean Venice’s capacity for protection against flooding would be significantly diminished. The Italian government needs to ensure that the dam project is completed but without the embezzlement of more funds.
The debates about the project and how it is likely to impact Venice are explained in detail in my book, which is based on interviews conducted with local environmentalists and extensive research: Venice in Environmental Peril? Myth and Reality (2012). This book can be purchased by clicking on the book’s title words or by using the link on the right of this page by clicking on the image of the book’s cover.
For anyone who would like to observe further details about the project, the New Venice Consortium (in charge of constructing the dams) produced a film showing the North Lido inlet and the launch of the caissons, which are the structures that will host the MOSE mobile gates. This film can be viewed using the link below:
This next film shows the positioning of the first of the four barriers:
Mose, la posa della prima paratoia