Venice under almost two meters of water, the severely damaged Basilica di San Marco, the city that suffers incalculable damage and two people who die from the fury of the sea: 187 centimeters of high water, the second highest level ever recorded. Is there anything that could save the jewel of the lagoon from the fury of the sea? Yes, the Mose. That Mose conceived in the 1980s, started in 2003, still unfinished, but in the meantime has eaten a monstrous amount of citizens' money. Twelve years ago we have already dealt with this story, as you can see above in the service of Alessandro Sortino and Francesca Biagiotti, and incredibly, 12 years later, we are talking about the same problems and scandals.
17 years have passed since the start of work on the experimental electromechanical module, Mose. The work, imagined to protect Venice from high water, it is a sort of huge mobile dam: it should consist of 78 movable bulkheads installed at the lagoon's port mouths, placed at the bottom of the sea, which would have been raised in the case of exceptional events such as Tuesday isolating the city from the fury of the Adriatic sea. A project that is in some ways innovative and visionary though he is drowning, weighed down by delays, corruption and incompetence. Unfortunately, according to the most classic canons of the typical Italian tragicomedy.
In fact, these 17 years have been peppered with investigations, arrests, commissioners. And, as per our local tradition, from delays to delays: it had to be completed in 2014, but after several postponements the last date scheduled for the inauguration was set at the end of 2021. Except, of course, new unexpected events.
The biggest "unexpected" dates back to 2014, the year originally planned for the launch of the Mose. A maxi blitz by the Guardia di Finanza leads to the arrest of 35 people, accused in various ways of corruption, extortion and illegal financing. The most famous of the characters involved is Giancarlo Galan, former governor of the Region: Galan has bargained a sentence of 2 years and 10 months in prison, returning 2.5 million euros. According to the charges, the former governor would even be renovated a villa with the money it would have illegally obtained. The company responsible for the works, the Consorzio Venezia Nuova, was then commissioned by the government.
Since then the works for the realization of the Mose, already late, have undergone further stops and slips. After the scandal, various technical problems emerged: the walls of the work were jammed by the sand deposited on the seabed. Even the steel hinges, those that allow the lifting of the bulkheads themselves, looks like they're rusting. And the function tests are postponed.
An absurd story in short, that has occupied the front pages of newspapers, newscasts and Internet sites for too many years. But how much has this huge mess that should save Venice cost, or rather how much is still costing us? The latest figures speak of almost six billion euros, which become eight if one also considers ancillary works. A monstrous amount of money for something that has not yet been put into operation and that we do not even know for sure if it will ever be and if ever it will be useful to protect the lagoon.
We at Le Iene have already dealt with all this history back in 2007, in the service you can see above. At the time we gave an account of the movements of citizens who opposed the realization of the Mose and the expected costs for the construction of the work: four and a half billion euros, almost a billion and a half less than what has already cost us so far. And we don't know how much it will cost us before we see the sunlight.
We had interviewed the then mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari, who had tried in every way to oppose the construction of the Mose. "It is a very daring work"He had told us. Yes, because the government and the Region had decided to proceed with the construction of the work against the opinion of the Municipality.
Among the defenders of the Moses there were at the time Antonio Di Pietro, Minister of Infrastructures of the Prodi government, and Giancarlo Galan, the one who later bargained a conviction for pocketing the money for the work. "Do not say that we have not done everything possible to protect Venice from high water", The hero of Clean Hands told us. Because at the time it was feared that global warming would cause a rise in sea level and that the city risked being constantly flooded by the Adriatic Sea: the data, however, were not yet catastrophic.
In 1966 the city ended up completely flooded due to an exceptional high tide combined with bad weather: sea level reached one meter and 94 centimeters, the highest figure ever recorded. The damage to Venice was enormous and it was at that very moment that we began to think of a system of dams to protect the lagoon. It was that catastrophic event that marked the birth of the Mose idea. An impressive work, never conceived and realized before. London and Rotterdam, which had suffered devastating floods in the 1950s and had decided to protect themselves with dam systems, different from the one being built in Venice. The works conceived abroad showed a clear disadvantage: they are always visible, while the Mose lies on the seabed when it is not in operation and does not alter the landscape of the lagoon.
At the time, however, it was known what was the weak point of the Mose: while the works of London and Rotterdam have the mechanisms exposed to the open air, those of the Venetian dam are under water. And this exposes them to all the damage that the salty sea can cause to mechanical systems, first of all at the hinges. At the time of our service, which dates back to twelve years ago, the damage that occurred later still did not emerge: but if the risks were already known why was it decided to carry out this type of work? The No Mose movement denounced this danger, it remained unheard.
We had talked about it with the engineer Mazzacurati, at the time president of the Nuova Venezia Consortium who had contracted the construction of the Mose. He told us that a total of 18 million euros a year would be needed to maintain the work and keep it running. Even the engineer Mazzacurati he ended up at the center of Mose inquiries, leaving the process with a plea bargain. During the investigation he was placed under house arrest: according to the reconstruction during the proceedings, during his presidency the Consortium allegedly provided bribes for over 100 million euros. At the time it was defined by the press "the great puppeteer”Behind the murky operations of the Consortium. Later Mazzacurati was declared unfit to testify due to serious health reasons, and died in September 2019.
Returning to the Mose, despite some doubts we have given you, it seemed that designers could be trusted while the constructor was less trustworthy. And be careful, because there were still seven years to the explosion of the scandal on the Consortium which is monopolist in the design and construction of the work. "There is a figure that takes all the public money, which is made up of private companies: imagine if those who have to design and do it will do the cheapest thing", they said at the time in the No Mose committee. Insinuations to which the engineer Mazzacurati responded as follows: "She believes that when the Americans went to the moon they competed (between private companies, ed)? ". We would have discovered only later that those doubts were more than founded.
There were some alternative projects, from a rubber dam to one similar to the dam protecting Rotterdam. All of these had a common point: they cost much less than the Mose. As Giulio Andreotti said, "to think evil is a sin but often we guess it"In addition, the Mose is not removable unlike the others. The then Minister Di Pietro told us that he was not at all sure that the solution chosen was the best, but that the omelette was now made: in fact the construction of the work had begun under the Berlusconi government. Governor Galan was not worried: we first told how his story related to Mose continued.
As we have told you before, twelve years have passed since the realization of this service. IS the Mose is still not working, still at the center of the news, still a chasm of public money. On Tuesday two people died also due to the delay in the construction of the work. Venice is flooded, priceless works of art have suffered incalculable damage, the city is on its knees. Someone finally intends to do something or will we let the Mose remain another scandal of this Italy?