Ex-head of Venice 'Moses' dam project arrested

Giovanni Mazzacurati among 14 detained

Ex-head of Venice 'Moses' dam project arrested

Venice, July 12 - The former head of the consortium responsible for finishing and running the MOSE ('Moses') system of dams to protect Venice was arrested in a contract-rigging probe from northern to southern Italy Friday. Giovanni Mazzacurati was among 14 people arrested in Veneto, Lombardy, Friuli, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Lazio and Campania. Some 100 people were placed under investigation. The first phase in the installation of the controversial MOSE water barrier system in the Venice lagoon to protect the city from floods was completed last week. The Venezia Nuova Consortium carrying out the work said a fourth mobile gate had been lowered into the north canal in the Lido port waterway where the lagoon meets the Adriatic sea which is prone to flooding the city during high tide. In the coming months, the floodgates will reportedly be raised in tests to verify the effectiveness of the barrier system, 75% of which has already been completed, the Consortium said. The 5.4-billion-euro MOSE project has already been funded with 4.934 million euros. The deadline for implementing the floodgates is 2016 but the consortium said Wednesday that two of the system's four barriers will be in place by 2014. Over 4,000 people are working in the project. Conceived in 1984, MOSE, which in Italian is a play on the name Moses, has been controversial since its inception with environmentalists saying it will interrupt the natural ecosystem and some experts questioning its effectiveness in protecting the city. Floods reached chest-high levels several times this fall and winter, flooding stores and apartments. Weather experts say the high-water threat has been increasing in recent years due to heavier rains in northern Italy, possibly because of climate change. Other potential causes for the 'acqua alta' phenomenon include the sea floor rising as a result of incoming silt and gas extraction in the sea off Venice. A recent study also claimed that plate tectonics are responsible as the Adriatic plate is sliding beneath the Apennine Mountains, causing the whole area to drop in elevation. photo: Mazzacurati, left, with Venice Mayor Giorgio Orsoni

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