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Venice turns the tide


After years of debate, work to prevent the destruction of Venice by rising tides has moved a step forward, reports Igor Leto.

AN ITALIAN definition for engaging in futile rhetoric is to 'debate the sex of angels';

apparently this is what the leaders of the Byzantine Empire were doing while the Ottoman Turks were hammering at the gates of Constantinople.

It would appear to apply equally to the saga of protecting Venice from high tides which began after the disastrous flood of 1966.

At one stage it seemed as if the project had hit deadlock when the approval of the concept in 1992 followed by June 1998 endorsement by a Commission of International Experts was thwarted by the December 1998 negative opinion of the Ministry of the Environment's EIA Committee.

Fortunately this was legally ruled to be 'illogical' in July 2000 (NCEI September 2000) and was followed (after a Council of Ministers' resolution in March 2001) by its decision of 6 December 2001 to proceed with final design of the mobile barriers.

The barrier will contain tides up to 2m, which at present would entail operating it some 12 times a year.

However, complementary measures, such as that of increasing friction in the inlet channels and raising the level of public areas (the 'Insulae' project) would reduce this to some three to five times a year, with obvious navigation benefits.

Igor Leto (F), is an engineer practising in Italy. He is a member of the Civil Engineering Proceedings panel

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