On the last 14th of November, the city of Venice suffered the worst flooding in 53 years. Although Venetians are used to floods on a yearly basis, this time the tide  reached high water levels up to 1.87m (6ft). ore than 80% of the historic city remained underwater and the Italian State had to declare a state of emergency. The aftermath of the flooding in the UNESCO world heritage city included damage to the landmark St Mark’s Basilica, museums shut, an exodus of tourists, power cuts to homes and mountains of trash. On top of that, two people lost their lives.And do you guess who Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro has blamed on for the exceptional water rise levels in Venice? On Climate change. 

On the 15th of November, the Veneto regional Council flooded for the first time in history, while members were debating amendments to the 2020 regional budget. The paradox is that the flooding happened just moments after the majority League, Brothers of Italy, and Forza Italia parties rejected amendments to the budget proposed by the Democratic party to deal with climate change – aimed at funding less polluting renewable sources to replace diesel buses. The deputy on the environmental council, Mr. Zanoni, accused the League Party‘s budget of  having a lack of concrete action to combat climate change. While the council’s president, Ciambetti, a member of Italy’s far-right League party,  defended the League´s fight..

 

What action has the Italian Council has taken so far?

After declaring emergency measures, the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also confirmed the provision governmental funds for individuals up to €5,000 (£4,300; $5,500), and businesses up to €20,000, in compensation. He also referred to the building of a flood barrier project (The Mose project) which still incomplete, will hopefully be concluded by the end of 2021 at an estimated cost of€7 billion. 

Controversy arises as experts worry that the Mose system was not originaly designed to deal with the rising level of sea waters predicted in the future. According to reports sea levels will rise higher than expected andbarriers may onlybe efficient against flooding for few decades, but it will not be eventually sustainable for the lagoon and its historical city. More controversial reasons for the flood barrier is the worry that it could harm the lagoon’s ecosystems.

 

Venice in 2020: What happens now? The Flood impact on Venetian’s daily lives.

After the city has suffered its worst flooding since 1966, estimating the cost of damages is hundreds of millions of euros. Venetians are frustrated to see the city so damaged, with both its artistic heritage and commercial activities compromised. They accuse their government of failing to act on time to protect Venice

Italian climate activists criticize that the inhabitants of the lagoon islands, the “real” Venetians, have no voice. The director of the non-profit organization We Are Here Venice, Jane Da Mosto, has proposed some measures to tackle the community challenges includingcontrolling tourism by banning cruise ships. Although Venetians voted on a consultative referendum to give the community its own administrative structure, it is opposed by the mayor on claims of creating bureaucratic barriers and discouraging investment.

 

Is climate change behind Venice flooding?

It is true that the current changing climate is the main reason behind sea levels rising and the unusual frequency of high tides. However, there are also more factors than climate change motivating the flooding. The fact that the city of Venice itself is sinking and the massive tourism has taken over the citytogether make Venice particularly susceptible to Climate change. In this line, Jane Da Mosto believes that the biggest contributor to the crisis during the last flood was not coming from not from Mother Nature, but due to human failures regarding the prevention and management of the crisis. For this reason, as well as making efforts to combat climate change, it is also fundamental that we improve ourdecision making and planning to combat future crisis in 2020.

 

Photo by Joe deSousa

 

 

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