A lack of funding is to blame for delays in building Venice flood barriers, which could have prevented this week's storm surge overwhelming the Italian city, British charity Venice in Peril claimed today.
"If the mobile barriers currently being built between the Adriatic and the lagoon were already in action, Venice would not have been flooded," said its chairman Anna Somers Cocks. "Unfortunately, cuts in government funding have already caused their projected completion date to slip from 2012 to 2014.
The charity went on to blame mayor of the city Massimo Cacciari for opposing the barriers and making political capital out of the fact that the city’s ordinary budget has been drastically cut to finance their construction. It also accused him of encouraging a popular belief that they are not necessary.
City officials recorded the peak tide during Monday's event at 1.56m - one of the highest in Venice's history - bringing the Italian tourist hotspot to a halt.
A flood protection scheme - known as the Moses project - received approval in spring 2003 but works are now only 50% complete.
The scheme involves installing gates across the inlets to the lagoon where Venice is located. They will plug the flow of water whenever exceptionally high tides threaten.
"The barriers will protect the city not just from exceptional events such as this one, but against the frequent minor floods that occur every year, damaging the buildings and making life difficult for residents," said Somers Cocks.
"The Venice in Peril Fund appeals to the Italian authorities, at national, regional and city level, to recognise that the future of Venice... will always need exceptional funding, long term planning and collaboration between politicians of all parties to survive."