Italian environment minister expected to reject Venice flood barriers

The report of the national commission on the project is due 21 October



Despite the favourable report on the proposed flood barriers submitted at the end of June by five international experts at the request of the Italian government, the Minister for the Environment, Edo Ronchi, is expected to express his ministry’s opposition to the scheme on 21 October. He is a member of the Green Party, which, though small, forms part of the coalition in government. The matter then goes to a committee made up of senior ministers and representatives of regional and local government. A final decision will then be taken, which may be influenced as much by the politics of coalition government than by the true merits of the issue.

Last month, the regional government of the Veneto voted 25 to 4 in favour of the barriers, rejecting as inadequate the Greens’ alternative, a combination of raising floor levels in Venice itself and restoring conditions in the lagoon to those obtaining in the days of the Serenissima.

The province has not yet formulated a policy on the subject, while the town government of Venice, under mayor Massimo Cacciari is largely hostile to the barriers. The reason for this is not clear, but it is thought to reflect fears that the $2.4 billion cost of the barriers might lead to cuts in other areas of central government finance for Venice. Two exhibitions presenting the rival approaches are going on in the city at present, for the barriers in Campo San Maurizio and against, in the Bacino Orseolo.

Leading British, Dutch and Italian experts in climate change and sea defences, together with the British society,Venice in Peril, have issued a communiqué appealing for the city to be protected, and reminding that in 1900, Venice was flooded about seven times a year; in 1989 it was forty times and in 1996 it was ninety-nine times.