Venice is possibly one of the best known cities Worldwide. Its walls have witnessed European history for centuries. What’s more, those same walls have starred in important moments in history since was founded in 421 of our era. To testify to its importance, every year Venice visits some 30 million tourists from all over the planet.
But among the problems that Venice has there is one that can cost it its existence: much of the city is below sea level, so several times a year it floods. Something that can draw the attention of tourists but that for its inhabitants is a problem. Even has its own name, high water. For this reason many of the tourist areas have wooden walkways to circumvent the flooded areas.
So what to do so that Venice does not succumb under the waters as it happened to other cities of the past like Pavlopetri in Greece, or the old Alexandria in Egypt? Can human technology overcome floods, increasingly frequent and aggravated by climate change?
The answer is in MOSE
Moses He is one of the best-known characters in the Christian Bible, and more specifically in the book of Exodus, which is part of the Old Testament. Among its many heroics, one of the most popular in collective memory is its passage through the sea. According to the book of Exodus, Moses asked Yahweh divide the waters of the Red Sea so that the Israelites would cross seamlessly fleeing from the Egyptians.
More than three millennia later, the name of Moses, which in Italian is Mosé, is back in fashion. The reason is a mega-engineering project whose name is precisely MOSE, an acronym for Modulo Sperimentale Elttromeccanico, in Spanish Experimental Electromechanical Module.
And the megaproject is not free, since MOSE consists of 78 gates that emerge from the sea and that, in principle, will face the phenomenon known as acqua alta and that endangers Venice with increasingly frequent floods.
The MOSE system is not new. Actually, he was born in 2003 with Silvio Berlusconi as president. And it is that this project exceeds the financial capabilities of a city like Venice. Otherwise, the Venetian protection system is inspired by previous projects such as the one Rotterdam in the Netherlands, another city below sea level. It is also inspired by the system used in the river Thames From london.
At low tide, the MOSE gates remain open and supported at the bottom, in a concrete construction. Being open, the water can flow naturally. When the tide rises, air is injected into the gate. This causes the water to be expelled and the floodgates emerge to the surface with an inclination that blocks the entry of water.
The question is, why has it taken 17 years? How complex was the MOSE project? What happened during that time so that the project lasted so long?
Announced in 2003, the system had to be put launched in 2014. But its inauguration has taken a long time. As early as November 2019, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte promised that the system would be put launched in 2021. The announcement coincided with the last floods in Venice.
All in all, the first test of the MOSE system was made on July 10. From here, the definitive start-up it is confirmed that it will be in 2012. Along the way, millions of euros have been invested in a project in which private companies such as FIAT have participated.
Interestingly, MOSE was devised in the 80s the last century. But as I said, it was not until 2003 that the need to protect Venice from floods was seen, every time more frequent and destructive. Not so much because of the human cost, for the moment, but because of the impact on the city, its heritage and, in the medium term, its economy.
As for the delay in construction, the main cause is in corruption, generating extra costs of 7,000 million euros. Precisely, the mayor of that time, Giorgio Orsoni, was convicted along with his accomplices for embezzlement.
All’s well That ends well. MOSE may have been late. Its high cost delayed its construction until the 21st century. It is ironic that the same cost was triggered by corruption.
Whatever it was, the system activates in 30 minutes and it allows a difference of 1.6 meters between the sea and the Venetian lagoon. In addition, when it is not in operation, it disappears under the sea, facilitating the entry and exit of water and the boats that cross it. Of course, its maintenance has an estimated cost of between 20 and 100 million euros.