Wednesday 20 November 2019

Venezia Inondata

The recent exceptional acque alte in Venice have received much coverage in the news – coverage that has been predictably unilluminating, going straight from spectacular images of the flooding to talk of 'climate change' (a term that is shorthand for 'catastrophic anthropogenic climate change' and was adopted when 'global warming' failed to pan out as predicted). The real story, largely ignored by the news bulletins, has less to do with 'climate change' than with a host of other factors, not least corruption.
  I remember that even at the time of my first visit to Venice – 50 years ago! – there was much talk of a comprehensive solution to Venice's high water problems, envisaged in the form of some kind of flood barrier. When, after decades of discussion and mysteriously disappearing funds, this eventually took definite shape, as MOSE (MOdulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico), it soon became apparent to all but those driving the project that this was just the kind of monolithic, inflexible, over-engineered grand project that was likely to do as much harm as good in an environment as sensitive and complex as the Venetian lagoon. But every objection and critique has been swept aside and the juggernaut rolls on. The latest projection is that MOSE will be completed in 2022 – a mere 19 years after construction began – but don't hold your breath...
 No doubt a great deal more money will be siphoned off into secret bank accounts before it's finished (if it ever is). In 2014, 35 people, including the then mayor of Venice, were arrested on MOSE-related corruption charges, and it was estimated that some 20 million euros had gone astray. This led to management of the project being taken out of Venetian hands and placed in those of the famously efficient Italian state (which seems hardly to have improved matters). It's a sorry tale – and meanwhile the physical and social structure of Venice continues to suffer terrible degradation as a result, chiefly, of mass tourism on a wholly unsustainable scale, with thousands pouring in daily on the notorious grandi navi, giant cruise ships that have no place in a city as fragile as Venice. Getting rid of them would do more for Venice than MOSE is ever likely to do.

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