Venice - a city with an uncertain future

From the gradual sinking of the Adriatic plate to rising sea levels, the historic city of venice is under threat. Let's explore what's being done to save it

Ste Wright | 4 min read

Venice, the jewel of the Adriatic, faces an existential threat due to the combined effects of the sinking Adriatic Plate and rising sea levels. Over the centuries, this iconic Italian city has battled with floods, but the situation has become increasingly dire. Despite the ambitious flood defence barrier known as MOSE, the project has been marred by corruption charges, further exacerbating Venice's challenges. Nevertheless, there is hope for the future of this enchanting city, and concerted efforts can still save it from the clutches of the rising tides.

Venice from the air
Venice is often referred to the Jewel in the Adriatic Sea, thanks to its rich architecture and heritage

The Sinking Adriatic Plate

Located in the northeastern part of the Mediterranean, the Adriatic Sea is enclosed by the Italian Peninsula and the Balkan Peninsula. Venice sits on a network of islands within the lagoon, resting on the Adriatic Plate, which is gradually sinking into the underlying sediment. This geological phenomenon, known as subsidence, has occurred for centuries, causing the city to sink at an average rate of 1-2 millimetres per year. While this may seem insignificant, it poses a significant threat to Venice's existence when combined with rising sea levels.

Rising Ocean Levels

The primary driver of rising sea levels is climate change. As global temperatures increase, ice sheets and glaciers melt, leading to the expansion of seawater. According to scientific projections, the average sea level could rise by up to one meter by the end of the century. For Venice, this means an increased frequency and intensity of flooding, putting its architectural wonders, cultural heritage, and unique way of life at risk.

Venice at disk
Rising sea levels threatens the very existance of Venice

The MOSE Flood Defense Barrier

The Italian government initiated the MOSE project in response to the worsening flood situation (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico). This ambitious undertaking aimed to construct mobile barriers at the entrances to the Venetian Lagoon. When high tides threaten to inundate the city, these barriers will rise from the seabed, blocking the incoming water and protecting Venice from flooding.

The MOSE flood barrier
The MOSE flood barrier is overbudget and overdue

However, the MOSE project has been plagued by scandal and corruption, casting a shadow over its efficacy. Investigations into bribery, embezzlement, and other corrupt practices have led to arrests and legal proceedings. These charges have not only tarnished the reputation of the project but have also delayed its completion. The initial deadline for the MOSE barrier's full functionality has been repeatedly pushed back, leaving Venice vulnerable to the rising tides.

Saving Venice

Despite the challenges, there are still reasons for optimism when it comes to preserving Venice. While beset with issues, the ongoing completion of the MOSE flood defence barrier remains a crucial step forward. The barriers have already been successfully tested, giving hope that they can protect against future floods.

However, solely relying on infrastructure is not a sustainable solution. Implementing long-term measures to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is paramount. The international community must strive to meet the goals set forth in the Paris Agreement, promoting renewable energy, sustainable practices, and green infrastructure.

Piazza San Marco
The architecture of Piazza San Marco is of historical and cultural importance

Furthermore, Venice is exploring innovative approaches to adapt to its changing environment. Projects involving the restoration of marshlands, and artificial reefs, and protecting the lagoon's delicate ecosystems are gaining traction. By preserving and restoring the natural balance of the lagoon, Venice can enhance its resilience against flooding while safeguarding its unique ecological heritage.

Venice's future hangs in the balance as the sinking Adriatic Plate and rising ocean levels pose formidable challenges. The MOSE flood defence barrier, though tainted by corruption charges, offers hope for protection against floods. However, it is imperative to address the root causes of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By combining technological advancements with sustainable practices and ecological restoration, Venice can defy the odds and preserve its splendour for generations to come. The time to act is now, for Venice represents not only a marvel of human ingenuity but also a testament to the triumph of nature and culture intertwining in perfect harmony.

Your thoughts and comments