Most people all over the world travel by the road. In a city in Italy however, waterways make up the primary commuting routes. The city of Venice, rich in architectural marvels, is best known for its canals. Unfortunately, this beautiful city of flat-bottomed boats (Gondolas), churches and quaint cobbled streets is sinking and sinking fast.
Known as the ‘Queen of the Adriatic’, Venice is situated on 120 islands formed by canals in the lagoon between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers, at the northern extremity of the Adriatic Sea. And even the bits of firm ground have rather boggy foundations and all this is slowly getting eroded.
Why is Venice sinking?
The existing ground water table and the global climate changes that have raised sea levels by several inches, are proving disastrous for the city. As sea-ice melts and water levels rise, floods in Venice are getting from bad to worse. And buildings are already feeling the impact of this phenomenon, with their foundations literally being shaken. Take for example one of the most famous landmarks of Venice, the 900-year-old St. Mark’s Basilica, a famous cathedral that now leans slightly to the left because of its unstable foundation.
Experts warn that the city may sink an additional eight inches in the next 50 years. Many scared residents have already started to move to drier regions in Italy’s mainland. To tackle the flood menace, a group of Venetians, called the New Venice Consortium, has come up with ‘Project Moses’ – a dam project named after the biblical figure, Moses. The idea is to place underwater gates at different points where the Adriatic Sea water enters the lagoon. When the water is low, the gates will remain open and as the water rises, the gates will close, preventing the seawater from flooding Venice. However, there’s a hitch to implementing this idea. Environmentalists point out that the gates would have to remain closed most of the time and seawater will not be able to move in and out of Venice. As a result, the lagoon water will become stagnant, harming the fish and plants that live there. Until a viable solution is found out, Venice, it seems, would continue to be plagued by floods. Truly, a case of being caught between the devil and the deep sea!