The lagoon surrounding Venice protected the city from invasion for centuries as it rose to become a Mediterranean mercantile power.
Treacherous to navigate, only the inhabitants knew the safe passages through the salt marshes. But this natural defence is now proving ecologically fragile since the rivers that fed it were diverted for industrial purposes. The lagoon's fine sedimentary balance has been disrupted.
So a duty of care is now being returned to the region as part of an environmental protection programme. 'We could protect the buildings and not the lagoon but as it is the last in Italy we must protect both, ' says protection consortium Technital public relations offi cer Monica Ambrosini.
While building the flood prevention gates, the consortium will also recreate historic salt marsh habitats.
This work, already 80% complete, will encourage water circulation and oxygenation while recreating natural habitats.