Letter: Protecting Venice

Share
Related Topics
Protecting Venice

MICHAEL McCARTHY'S report (21 April) highlighted the threat of catastrophic flooding facing Venice. For nearly two years I chaired the international panel of experts that supervised the preparation of the environmental impact statement for the proposed movable gates that would protect the lagoon against high tides and storm surges. We could not agree more with the conclusion that inaction endangers the city and the rest of the lagoon environment.

Unfortunately, I must strongly disagree with statements attributed to Professor Edmund Penning-Rowsell. The gates are the only solution to long range flooding. They will protect the whole lagoon against flooding; they respect the commercial activity of the lagoon; they benefit the environment by protecting against flood; and they provide the opportunity to increase, through operation, circulation and water quality in the lagoon.

Professor Penning-Rowsell asks, "What happens when the gates have to be closed every day, as they will?" It is very reasonable to assume that the relative sea level will be 20cm higher a hundred years from now. At that point the gates would have to be closed 70 times a year for 250 hours. That is accounting for false alarms. If we were to assume a rise of 50cm in the next 100 years, consistent with some of the predictions of the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, the above situation would be reached in 50 years. Although frequent, the closures would be far from permanent. A life of 50 to 100 years for such an engineered solution is very reasonable.

The article suggests "small-scale local flood defence works" as an alternative to the gates. Such works, called "insulae" are already under construction. These raised walls on the perimeters of many small islands are being built to their maximum feasible elevation without being physically and aesthetically intrusive. They will significantly reduce the number of gate closures required under medium flood conditions, but cannot possibly protect the city and lagoon against the extreme and most damaging flood events.

If indeed the worst of the sea level rise scenarios do occur, the movable gates provide protection and time for the Italian and world community to react. The present design includes locks to permit emergency transit even while the gates are closed. If sea level rise were ever to force permanent closure 100 or more years from now, the gates would not only have served their purpose but would provide the platform to implement the only solution possible: gates and locks. Ask the Dutch about their successful experience!

The gates are made of steel, not concrete, and are invisible except during operations. The cost quoted is too high by at least a factor of two. With the correct numbers the gates will not be a "waste of money".

RAFAEL L BRAS

Head, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Among the ‘extreme’ ideas favoured by Neil Findlay is the re-nationalisation of Scottish railways  

Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

DJ Taylor
Bill Cosby dismisses the allegations that have demolished his lovable TV persona as ‘innuendos’  

Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

Rupert Cornwell
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin