MoSE and rising seas. D’Alpaos: “It will have to be raised every day”

Consultant Adami: when we designed it we didn’t know. The reply: the scientific predictions have been known for a long time.

By Alberto Vitucci

15 Feb. 2022

[Ed. Note: This story is obviously several weeks old, but your humble translator has been working on a big deadline… which has past, so now I am back and getting caught up. Thanks for reading.]

VENEZIA. Within a few decades, at the end of the century, sea level will rise by one meter, and MoSE will have to be activated every day. The scenario sketched out by the IPCC regarding global warming will have its effects locally. The most optimistic hypothesis has the Adriatic rising by around 50 centimeters. The more likely scenario is 70-80 cm, and the most pessimistic forecast is up to one meter.

“This means that MoSE would have to close, in the best-case scenario of 50 cm of sea level rise, 350 times a year, for at least 2 thousand hours” said Professor Luigi D’Alpaos, a hydraulic engineer and leading expert on the hydrodynamics of the Lagoon, and author of a predictive model regarding the new scenarios, “which is a big problem. Because this will mean that port activity will no longer be able to exist. And there will be heavy environmental consequences due to the prolonged closures. It is clear that, beyond the delays and its unresolved technical problems, MoSE alone will not suffice to protect Venice”.

And yet to finance the massive work, designed in 1984, launched in 2003 and scheduled to be completed in 2025, all of the other interventions to defend against high tides were cut, beginning with the local defense of Piazza San Marco. “When we designed it we didn’t know [about the sea level projections]” candidly stated Attilio Adami, a consultant for Consorzio Venezia Nuova and for the Magistrato alle Acque, during a convention organized by the Order of Engineers at Ateneo Veneto.

Is that possible? “But no…”, D’Alpos extended his arms, exclaiming “that’s not true! Even beyond the scientific literature, when the project was presented for approval and financing, in November 2006, these things were already clear. The IPCC had been signaling the danger since the 1990s. Meanwhile the Consorzio and its consultants and Corila insisted that the sea level rise would only be 22 centimeters. Absurd. The French CNR with Professo Paolo Pirazzoli had clearly identified the problem. But they went ahead all the same”.

There is quite a difference between a 22 cm and 1 meter. And it is true that in the design phase MoSE did not account for more realistic hypotheses about sea level rise. “In those years of absolute monopoly” recalls Stefano Boato, an instructor at IUAV, environmentalist and expert on the Lagoon, “the scientific institutions reassured everyone. Mazzacurati had presented a report to the Environmental Impact Evaluation that spoke of sea level rise around 16-20 centimeters”.

“In those same years Professor Pirazzoli of the French CNR was already talking about 50 cm, and indicated as the first solution the reduction of the depth of the sea floor at the inlets to the port. Independent scientific studies were ignored, such as that by the manager of the Centro Maree, Paolo Canestrelli, who in 1999 reported the dangers of the growth of the acque alte with the big excavations at the port inlets”.

The debate heated up in the city council, but in the end it was the Prodi government that gave the green light to the project from Rome. The alternatives were discarded without ever having been looked at, the alarms about the reliability of MoSE in the future scenario were completely ignored. “And yet”, continues Boato, “not only the Special Law and the Morphological Plan, but also Law 139 from 1992 spoke of sea-level rise and rebalancing of the Lagoon. They went ahead with MoSE, but the rebalancing has never come. Far from it, today we continue in the opposite direction, excavating canals and planning new ports inside the lagoon”.


Source: La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre

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