Wednesday, November 16, 2016

One of History's Great Swindles? Venice Is Sinking, but MOSE Is Sinking Much Faster

One of the large MOSE water gates prior to its installation in the mouth of the lagoon--where it will lie inoperably until corrosion necessitates its removal for costly repair and cleaning

If Venice is widely considered in its beautiful, implausible entirety--all its art, architecture, industry and economic innovation arising in the most inhospitable and limited of spaces--to be one of civilization's greatest creations, shouldn't the scandal-ridden, defective and ever-more-obsolete MOSE water gate system (that was supposed to save it) be considered one of civilization's greatest swindles?

This is the question that's haunted me for the last couple of years as all the corruption, incompetence and ill effects--both ecological and civic--of the great work (grande opera) have come undeniably to the surface:

So, the gates have created changes in water flow that have resulted in huge deep pits in the lagoon, which actually intensify acqua alta...?

So, the Director of the project Giovanni Mazzacurati and scores of others were arrested for corruption...? (Corruption that many people saw wired into the project from its inception.)

So the €5.5 billion that have gone to the project have meant that even essential services necessary to the operation and preservation of the city (eg regularly dredging canals) have been cut, and social services necessary to the life of what's left of the living city have been wiped out (funds to schools, libraries, senior centers, tidal monitoring centers, etc)...?

So, only in the last two years have the project's crack team of engineers discovered, as the local papers put it, that there's salt in sea water--which is corroding the water gates at alarming rates and fouling their operation...?

So, the gates were designed for a rise in sea level of 20 cm and now the projection is 80 cm...?

Well, in spite of all this and much more, I told myself not to jump to any conclusions. After all, the fate of one of the world's most celebrated cities depends on this grand project, and having sucked up all the Special Funds designated for Venice, and knowing full well that the entire world is watching them, those involved in the project couldn't be so shamelessly venal and/or inept as to make a complete shambles of it all.

Don't be such a pessimist, I told myself.

Now this, published in yesterday's L'Espresso: the massive concrete caissons lodged in the lagoon bed from which the water gates are supposed to rise up are actually sinking faster than Venice itself.  
(The entire article by Fabrizio Gatti merits reading, even if you need the help of a translation program to do so.)

The project's crack team of engineers had, of course, projected a certain limited amount of subsidence--but nothing even approaching what is actually happening.

While the city sinks a few millimeters each year into the ancient sediment of the lagoon, MOSE's foundations are sinking at a rate of 4 cm per year.

In other words, not only is the expected sea level going to be higher than was planned for in the design of the gates, but the foundations of the gates are going to be sinking ever lower.

Or, in other words, it appears that €5.5 billion (and counting) have been poured into a corrupt project that not only does not function--its operational date is perennially pushed further and further back--but which is already obsolete.

Meanwhile, Giovanni Mazzacurati lives out his golden years in La Jolla, California, having been deemed too infirm to withstand punishment for his crimes; the next and perhaps last generation of Venetian children attend filthy schools to which they must bring their own toilet paper; and Venice's own non-resident "Can-Do" mayor fantasizes about hosting a Trump-Putin summit here and, in spite of the ongoing disaster that is MOSE, pushes for beginning yet another grande opera: an offshore port just outside the lagoon.

Once again: senza parole.


  1. Poor Venice, it seems she is doomed to be dragged down by greedy bottom suckers. Without words, indeed.

    And then, there's dear Signor Calatrova and his bridge ...

    1. Even sadder is that both of those swindles combined are going to look like child's play compared the swindle underway in the US right now...

  2. Poor Venice indeed....... what a disgrace and what a tragedy for Venetians.

    1. It's as if the rapacity for which the Venetians were once infamous (in their sacking of Constantinople, for example) has now, after their sphere of political influence has shrunk to no more than the size of their own lagoon, been turned on their own home.

  3. mi disp tanto... it seems like this world is going to hell in a hand basket, I am glad I won't be around when Venice is but a memory, when the bill for climate change finally comes due... but your kids certainly will be around to reap this bitter fruit.

  4. We certainly have been swindled here in the US….and we as a country will be sinking faster than those ill planned corrupt gates will ever know. Poor Venezia, my heart breaks when I read of her and how greed and corruption continue to win over saving her. If only that ridiculous mayor could be sacked...