Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


Venice is sinking (Mar16)

It felt apocalyptic.  Exceptional flood levels. Sandbags.  Elevated planks to walk along. St Mark’s Square underwater and a deluge.  But I discovered that this was not very unusual.  And, it’s not a new phenomenon either.

In 1966 there was a huge storm which meant that the Piazza San Marco had a flood over five feet deep.

There appear to to multiple reasons for the problem – it’s not simply the result of climate change causing sea levels to rise, although that is considered to be a factor.

Many hopes were pinned on building a flood barrier, similar to the one on the Thames.  Project MOSE (Modeulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico) , as it’s called started in 2003 and is still not complete – and perhaps it never will be.  Apparently, it’s already been eroded by mould and mussels and run over budget by several billion Euros.

Even if the barrier works to plan it will protect Venice from the very high tides, but not the medium high ones, which are far more common. The project has also been marred by corruption, which has caused delays and short cuts.

It sounds like an unmitigated disaster, financially, technically and politically.  And, that’s before you even consider whether rising sea levels will make things worse.

And then there’s the overload of tourists visiting the historic city, perhaps to catch site of it before it finally sinks beneath the waves.  Oh dear.



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