How to prevent Venice from being swallowed by the waves

How to prevent Venice from being swallowed by the waves in 2100?

Will Venice be swallowed by the waves in 2100? To avoid this catastrophic scenario mentioned by scientists, the City of Doges is trying to raise awareness among younger generations to protect the lagoon, a very fragile ecosystem threatened by climate change.

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The “acqua alta”, a particularly high tide, regularly inundates the famous St. Mark’s Square, a phenomenon that entertains tourists but endangers the foundations of the ancient palaces of the Serenissima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If Unesco had threatened in 2021 to put Venice on the list of endangered world heritage sites, the city on the lake escaped in extreme cases thanks to the ban on large cruise ships entering the heart of the lagoon.

To help protect Venice, Prada-affiliated Unesco on Tuesday launched an initiative aimed at teaching young students aged three to six the secrets of the lagoon.


The island of Torcello, north of the lagoon, with its salt marshes whose shores are eroded by the waves of the motor boats, was the scene of the first outdoor lesson of this educational program entitled “Garden of the Children of the Lagoon”.

Fish made from recycled papier-mâché, samples of sea water, drawings that reproduce the colors of nature… the small group of about forty enthusiastic five-year-old children tried to appropriate the lagoon.

“We want the children to learn to observe nature and the lagoon, to know them, to love them and to protect them better,” Francesca Santoro, initiation program coordinator at AFP, told AFP Unesco Ocean.

artificial dikes

This educational project is considered useful by Georg Umgiesser, research director at the Institute of Marine Sciences of Venice (ISMAR-CNR), because “it is not enough to show simple graphs illustrating sea level rise”.

“As a result of land subsidence and rising water in Venice, mean sea level has risen by 30 cm over the past 150 years and is expected to rise by another 50 cm by the end of the century,” he told AFP.


St. Mark’s Square, located in the deepest part of the city, will be the first to be flooded, and “in the year 2100 half of Venice is in danger of being under water,” fears the German marine researcher, who has lived in Venice for 40 years.

Since October 2020, a system of artificial dikes called MOSE (Moses in Italian) is triggered whenever the rise in water in the Adriatic Sea reaches an alert level of 110 cm.

Developed in the 1980s before global warming was accelerating, will this system be enough to prevent Venice from being engulfed?


According to Mr. Umgiesser, this mechanism is reaching its limits. “The MOSE was designed in such a way that it can be switched off a maximum of 50 times per year. If sea rise continues at this rate, it should be triggered 300 to 400 times a year by 2100.”

biodiversity at risk

At that point, the lagoon would be effectively closed, preventing the exchange of water with the sea, which is essential for maintaining biodiversity.

Another solution remains, which would consist in “raising the Venice terrain by 30 to 50 cm by injecting seawater into its basement,” he explains. But such a scenario is still a long way off.

Meanwhile, Jane da Mosto, director of environmental NGO We are here Venice, is banking on salt marshes as natural barriers to slow acqua alta and dampen currents.


Restoring these wetlands, decimated by climate change and urbanization, would be a natural solution to save Venice and its lagoon, she said.

“Salt marshes act like sponges and can therefore slow down currents, reduce wave energy and thus lower water levels,” said the environmental expert of the AFP news agency.

“It’s a race against time. We must act now. We are in a climate emergency, the catastrophe is already happening,” she warned.