The Italian Government has finally given the go ahead for an ambitious plan to save Venice from sinking into the Adriatic.
The Italian Government has finally given the go ahead for an ambitious plan to save Venice from sinking into the Adriatic. It is a task that is so important -- according to one United Nations official -- that it puts today's civilisation on trial.
Meanwhile, a consortium of the giant rubber firm Pirelli, and Furlanis (an Italian construction firm), have been testing their revolutionary idea for controlling the flow of water into Venice's lagoon.
It consists of a huge rubber-coated polyester tube which can be filled with water to make a flexible dam across the mouths of the three channels which link the lagoon to the Adriatic.
When not needed, the tubes can be deflated and simply lie on the sea bed. A computerized early-warning system warns of flood conditions and the tubes can then be brought back into action.
Disastrous floods in 1966 -- which covered much of the city -- underlined the need for some kind of flood protection. Flooding on a smaller scale occurs regularly.
The tubes would be anchored by steel cables to steel-and-concrete anchors and could be sued with a limited opening to allow shipping to pass.
Two years ago the Italian Parliament passed a special law authorising the expenditure of 300,000 million lire (200 million pounds sterling) on the rescue of Venice. But the morass of bureaucracy, changing-Governments and conflicting local interests have delayed utilisation of the money.
Now the action is being taken. The Government has forbidden the construction of further industrial complexes along the north side of the lagoon. Pollution from industrial sites has been causing serious damage to the delicate stonework of many of the city's historic buildings.
The sinking of the city, combined with periodic flooding, has led to water erosion and damage to the water-line of many of the buildings.
Many conservationists feel that the rubber tube barriers are much more suitable than steel and concrete dams which have also been mooted.
Ecologists say the free flow of water out of the lagoon is necessary to flush clean the miles of canals which crisscross the city allowing pollution and sewage to be taken out to sea. The flow could be restricted by the use of a concrete dam.
No major problems have been encountered with an experimental 70-metre (yard) model dam which has been used for tests. Engineers say if approval is given for this system dams could be installed across the three lagoon openings with 18 months.
The estimated cost would be between 20 and 30,000 million lire (13.5 to 20 million pounds sterling). The Pirelli-Furlanis consortium say concrete dams would take more time to build, would be an eyesore and would cost about 100,000 million lire (67 million pounds sterling).