The MOSE Project

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The MOSE Project

Two mobile barriers from the MOSE project in Venice are shown in action. MOSE stands for MOdulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico or Experimental Electromechanical Module in English.

© MANUEL SILVESTRI/Reuters/Corbis

Flooding in Venice has been a problem for centuries and in order to prevent the venerable Italian city from sinking deeper into the lagoon on which it was founded, along came the MOSE project. It was first announced in 1988 by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Gianni De Michelis after years of political battles. "The deadline is still 1995," he assured everyone at the time, with the ominous caveat, "Of course, it might have to be put back a bit."

That was an understatement nearly as massive as the project itself, which involves putting 78 hinged metal gates, each weighing up to 300 tons (272 metric tons) and rising 66 feet (20 meters) in height, in channels of the Venice lagoon [source: Squires]. In the event of a flood, the panels are expected to rise and form a barrier against the waves. Since its inception, MOSE's estimated cost has ballooned from $1.7 billion (1.3 billion euros) to $8.1 billion (6 billion euros), and allegations of corruption have swirled around the still-uncompleted (as of 2014) project.

In June 2014, Venice's mayor, Giorgio Orsoni, and 34 other officials and businessmen were arrested on bribery charges in connection with building these barriers. Meanwhile, the city continues to flood and sink [source: BBC News].

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