Venice lagoon protection needs defined

Ministry outlines steps necessary to be taken before any construction of sea barriers

Italy's environment ministry has outlined a number of steps it says are needed to protect the Venice lagoon and safeguard the city's architectural integrity. A decree announced by environment minister Edo Ronchi on 30 December calls for "more advanced anti-pollution action" in the lagoon, interventions in the city to raise the buildings, better models to forecast floods, and changes to the canal and port system. Mr Ronchi did not give details of when any specific actions would be carried out, but he defended his ministry's efforts to protect the lagoon and pledged government funds of over Euro775m for the next three years. Mr Ronchi also defended the environment ministry's decision last month to reject a plan to construct a mobile barrier around the lagoon mouth. He said that the erection of mobile barriers closing off the lagoon at the port when the sea rises above a certain level could be considered only once other measures, like those mentioned in the decree, had been completed. His approach was criticised by former public works minister Paolo Costa. In an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Mr Costa hinted that the rejection of the "MOSE" barrier project was a political gesture influenced by the Green Party, of which Mr Ronchi is a member. He added that Venice needed urgent action, and that the MOSE barriers should have been given the go-ahead, while other studies and actions were carried out.

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