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Venice seawater pumping plan rings movement alarm bells

NEWS

THE LATEST proposal to save Venice from sinking into the sea is to pump huge volumes of seawater into the ground beneath the city.

Under a .100M (£68M) scheme developed by a panel of engineers and geologists from the University of Padua, seawater would be pumped down into the sand beneath the city.

This would swell the ground with the hope the city would be lifted by an estimated 300mm in 10 years - almost as much as it has sunk over the past three centuries.

Professor of engineering at the university Guiseppe Gambolati said the project would involve creating a ring of 12, 300mm diameter boreholes around the city to a 750m depth.

But Emeritus Professor of soil mechanics at Imperial College John Burland - who headed the team that saved the Leaning Tower of Pisa - expressed doubts over the scheme's viability.

Although he had not seen the proposal, he said: 'The risk is absolutely enormous. It sounds like a nice idea but the practicalities are immense.

The real crunch is how would you know what the response would be?

I'm willing to bet the ground would not swell uniformly.

'I'm very sceptical. The really big issue is knowing what's in the ground as the [SI] costs to go to these depths would be astronomical. If you don't know, you're in danger of causing tremendous damage; it could be very dangerous indeed.

'At Pisa we had to find a method for correcting the tower where we could immediately tell the response.

We looked at draining a sand layer but with water the response takes time and how could you control it-' Turin Polytechnic Professor of geotechnical engineering Michele Jamiolkowski also warned the scheme could lead to differential movement, damaging the city's buildings, and would take years to realise.

But the city's mayor is interested in the new proposal and is convinced the necessary technology exists.

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