Rome, July 11 (IANS) Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte presided over the key test of the MOSE flood barrier system in Venice, where rising tides last November caused multi-million-euro damages to the city on the lagoon and its countless artistic treasures, including St Mark’s Basilica.
Named the Experimental Electromechanical Module (MOSE), the flood barrier system has been decades in the planning and has been under construction since 2003, Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.
It is made up of four mobile defence barriers located at each of Venice’s three inlets, where high tides spread from the Adriatic Sea into the city’s lagoon, and is designed to fight off floodwaters to a maximum of three meters in height.
“We have here a powerful work, which has been awaiting completion for years,” Conte said of the MOSE project.
“A barrier extending 1.6 kilometers, whose objective is to safeguard Venice from the high tide,” the prime minister said.
“We are in the last stretch now,” said Conte, adding that over five billion euros (US $5.6 billion) have been spent on the MOSE thus far and that the system should be ready “by next fall or winter.”
The MOSE barriers are made up of 78 sluice gates, each of which is 20 meters wide and weighs between 168 and 330 tons, depending on where it is located.
When they are inactive, the sluice gates are full of water and lie completely invisible in housings placed in the seabed.
In the event of high tide, compressed air is introduced into the sluices, emptying them of water and causing them to rise up to block the incoming floodwaters.
When the tide recedes and the waters of the lagoon and the sea are at the same level once more, the sluice gates are filled with water and disappear back under the surface.
The average closing time of the three inlets is about 4-5 hours (including the maneuver times for the opening and closing of the sluice gates), according to the MOSE website.
Venice and its lagoon are a UNESCO World Heritage site. In November 2019, floodwaters were 1.87 meters high.