Venice Barriers

Peter Furtado looks at the need for urgent action and a major conference to save Venice from flooding.

The old debates about how best to save Venice from disappearing into the lagoon are set to move on to firmer ground this month as the Venice in Peril Fund calls a major conference of all those involved to share information and to achieve a holistic approach, perhaps for the first time ever. The aim – to achieve a benchmark of scientific understanding of the issues concerned – sounds modest, but the stakes are very high.

The problem is growing ever more urgent. In 1966, the flood that put St Mark’s Square under a metre of water also gave rise to serious concern (and led to the foundation of the Fund); but by the 1980s, flooding was occurring forty times a year, while in 1996 it was under water ninety-nine times, with floods being seen in the summer as well as during the winter months. The effects of rising sea levels are compounded by the fact the city is sinking every year, and on this basis Venice will be uninhabitable by the end of the present century. As Anna Somers Cocks, Chairman of the Venice in Peril Fund, explains, this realisation has led to a big change of focus in the Fund; there is little point in restoring individual buildings if the whole city is drowning; instead it is now concentrating on co-ordinating and publicising a thorough scientific understanding of the situation.

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