Wednesday, 29 Jan 2020

Tide barriers to protect Venice from flooding pass another test — but skeptics remain

Floated along by barge , one of the 10-ton barriers designed to relieve Venice’s perennial flooding looks like a giant plaything: an oversized hinged yellow Lego.

Central to the plan to protect the city, some or all of the 78 barriers will one day be raised when the sea rises more than 110 centimeters (43 inches), to prevent damaging high tides from pushing into the lagoon city, a world heritage site built picturesquely — but somewhat precariously — upon more than 120 islands.

Concerns that high tides are becoming more frequent because of climate change have increased the urgency.

While the concept is simple, its realization has been anything but.

The system of movable underwater barriers, dubbed Moses, has been beset by corruption, cost overruns and delays. Projected at 1.8 billion euros (US$2 billion) and meant to be completed by 2011, the project has so far cost 5.5 billion euros and is running a decade behind schedule.

In the wake of last month’s flooding of Venice, the worst in 53 years, the consortium that oversees construction of Moses is eager to demonstrate that the project — after years of bad news — is on track and will be fully operational by the end of 2021.

Venetians say they cannot afford to be wrong. Skeptics and critics say they may be.

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