Flooding in Venice and how to make an impact
With the recent flooding in Venice we’ve been receiving a lot of inquiry on how folks can support. Venice is a unique situation for a number of reasons. We won’t recite the numerous news stories, but we will convey our current thinking on the situation as well as powerful causes and non-profits to get behind and support.
1966, the first time Venice had a flood of this caliber that we have on record. Since then, city officials have been tackling the issue with a number of key initiatives. That being said, things in Italy rarely go according to plan, especially if you are talking about the execution of a mega infrastructure project involving massive public financing and complex, cutting-edge engineering. It is political reality in Italy that governments do not last long; 58 governments have come and gone since 1945.
Of the initiatives that Venice has moved forward with, the largest is Project MOSE. Mose barriers consist of flap gates, installed in the bottom of the inlets, that allow to separate temporary the lagoon from the sea during an event of high tide. This project could have potentially stopped this incident from happening but unfortunately completion is a long ways out. Engineers are now predicting the sea defense system will go on line at the end of 2021 at a cost of 5.5 billion euros ($6.1 billion) against an original estimate of 1.6 billion euros.
The news is not all bad though when it comes to these infrastructure initiatives in Venice. Through this climate of political infighting and uncertainty, hope for Venice springs eternal. City officials backed by the Italian government have quietly appropriated significant sums of money separate from the gates project to improve the infrastructure of the historic center. Crews are dredging a century’s worth of accumulated muck from the city’s dozens of canals and are rebuilding and waterproofing canal sides. They are restoring bridges and fountains. And they are raising fondamente, or sidewalks, along the canals and edges of the surrounding lagoon to levels above routine high-water marks.
Plans are afoot as well to improve Venice’s treatment of sewage, which for centuries has been dumped directly into the canals. Venetians are now installing septic tanks as buildings and market areas undergo renovation, and authorities hope that within the next two decades, traditional sewer pipes can deliver the city’s waste to mainland water-treatment facilities. Finally, St. Mark’s Square, the city’s lowest point and most frequently flooded area, is slated for a $50 million project to rebuild its drainage system.
There are a number of young companies tackling these problems not just for Venice but for cities across the globe that are facing climate change. WeHero is studying these companies to understand which could make the largest impact and how we can unite companies and people to support the efforts at scale.
What makes this an interesting case for WeHero is our usual non-profit partners for disaster relief are not responding to this crisis as many lives from a health and wellness standpoint are not critically affected. So outside of our longterm efforts, where are we looking to create impact immediately?
At this stage, our immediate attention is going to preserving the cities architectural and historical treasures. We have chosen to partner with Save Venice on this initiative.
“We are often asked why Americans should help restore art works belonging to the Italian government. The answer is that the Italians only hold these treasures in trust for all of us who descend from the Renaissance, and it is our shared responsibility to do what we can to help. When we came to the New World, we did not renounce our cultural heritage. It is an essential part of who we are. It is one of the title deeds to our civilization. We do not want to see it deteriorate and disappear.
Per capita, Italy spends ten times more to preserve its patrimony than the United States. Its restorers are the most skillful in the world. They are extraordinarily dedicated to their work. They are tireless workers. They are paid a pittance. In Venice, Save Venice knows and loves them all.
Yet, there are too many treasures residing in Italy for the Italians to protect. The cost is simply too great. The Old World must look to the New for help. If it is not forthcoming, we will all see the treasures of our heritage fade. If they are gone, we will remember them as they were, but our children and theirs will only see them in books.” – Randolph H. Guthrie, Chairman Emeritus
These treasures are important to not just Venice but to the world. Companies and individuals can support projects that align with their interest. For more information around supporting these projects please visit Save Venice.
WeHero will continue evaluating the situation as well as how we can make the largest impact on a global scale as this flooding is projected to be a more common issue.
Have ideas for us? We’d love to hear from you!
The WeHero Team