Letter: Venice preserved

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The Independent Culture

Venice preserved

Sir: I write in response to the Italian Environment Ministry's rejection of the "Moses" barrage proposals for the Venice Lagoon (report, 11 December). The British press has frequently highlighted a lack of environmental awareness in Italy. At last the Environment Ministry has taken a stand to favour a long-term environmentally sustainable solution to the problems of Venice over a short-term out-dated engineering solution.

Having spent the last five years researching the problems of Venice and its lagoon, I understand the urgency of resolving the problem of flooding but feel that continued emphasis on the barrage has only masked a number of other more up-to-date and appropriate solutions.

Venice lies in a fragile yet constantly evolving coastal environment and the problems facing this famous city cannot be separated from those concerning its 58,000 hectare lagoon (and its 200,000 hectare drainage basin). The lagoon has gradually been altered from what was once a low- energy, shallow coastal lagoon (rarely over 2 metres in depth), to a deep, high-energy, maritime bay (over 15 metres deep in places).

Flooding remains just one issue in a complex network of inter-related problems which must be resolved through a long-term management plan which incorporates principles of morphological restoration (such as restoration of natural water depths, the re-creation of buffer zones and the return of peripheral areas of the lagoon to free tidal expansion). In the short term, low-cost flood- proofing measures can be carried out within the urban centres of the lagoon to abate repeated flooding problems, while larger-scale restoration plans are under way.

Perhaps more attention should also be given to local opinion. A survey carried out by myself in July 1996 showed only 9 per cent of the local population interviewed were in favour of the barrage, 68 per cent were against and 23 per cent felt they knew too little to comment.

At last, funding for research and projects to resolve the problems of Venice and its lagoon may no longer be monopolised by the barrage proposals. Venice could at last be about to escape from the political and organisational trap in which it has found itself for the last 20 years.


Grantchester, Cambridge