Please zoom in or out and select the base layer according to your preference to make the map ready for printing, then press the Print button above.

MOSE project in Venetian Lagoon, Italy


The MOSE (Experimental Electromechanical Module) is an infrastructural work intended to protect the city of Venice and the Venetian Lagoon from flooding. The project, consisting of 78 mobile gates, with the total length of 1,6 km and weight of 300 tons, installed at the Lido, Malamocco and Chioggia inlets, will isolate the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic sea during tides more than 110cm high.

The lagoon of Venice is one of the oldest examples of the complex relationships between human activities and natural dynamics. In the lagoon, the high tide phenomenon is particularly relevant and this causes periodic flooding in Venice and Chioggia. Rising water levels and gradual foundation decay started to be seen as a serious risk to the city and its people from the dramatic flood of 1966.

In 1973, the first Special Law Interventions to safeguard Venice was enacted, identifying the protection of the lagoon as an objective of national interest [1]. In the following years emerged the “Progettone” proposal, currently called MOSE. In 1984 the second Special Law for Venice emphasised the need for a unified approach to the safeguarding measures, set up the committee for policy, coordination and control of these activities, the "Comitatone"[see relevant government actors involved], and entrusted design and implementation to a single body, the Consorzio Venezia Nuova-CVN (constituted by major Italian construction companies and local cooperatives and firms). In 1998 the MOSE Environmental Impact Assessment received a negative opinion, but an appeal lodged by the Veneto Region to the Regional Administrative Court (TAR) annulled it. In 2001 the Legge Obiettivo was issued, an instrument creating a fast track to funding, project approval and execution of strategic national infrastructure. In 2002 the final design of the MOSE project was presented and in 2003, the Comitatone gave the go-ahead for its implementation. Works at the three lagoon inlets started the same year. The construction should be complete in 2016.

Starting from 2000 the project has met resistance from local citizens for high costs, environmental impacts and monopoly concession to CVN. In June 2005, the Permanent Assembly NoMOSE was founded with the aim to block the construction of the project. The Assembly promoted several forms of mobilization from information dissemination to popular petitions, demonstrations and work site occupations (2005). The later led to arrests among the NoMOSE activists in 2010. In 2005-2006, the Municipality of Venice, critical of some technical aspects of the MOSE system, commissioned a study [2] that proved technical failures of the project in situations of strong pressure from the sea and compared it with a new and alternative proposal [4]. But the new proposal was not considered. In 2005 the EU Commission opened an infraction procedure against Italy for "pollution of the habitat" of lagoon sites protected by the Nature 2000 Network and by the European Directive on birds. In 2009, after a few adjustments and given the importance of the project, the case was closed.

Local movement criticism against the project have dealt with various aspects. First the high costs for the Italian State for construction, management, and maintenance of the installations. The actual estimated cost for construction is 5,5 billion €. This exclude costs for management and maintenance whose details have not yet been established. The functioning will have a high energy cost, thus a power plant will be created on the artificial Island Novissima, situated between the mobile gates of the Lido inlet where control offices will be placed.

Then, the project affects the delicate and unstable hydrogeological balance and the unique ecosystem of the lagoon. The big monolithic infrastructure system is not “gradual, experimental and reversible” as required by the Special Law for Safeguarding Venice.

In addition, the local movement strongly criticized the Consorzio Venezia Nuova monopoly on the design, planning and implementation of any intervention on the city of Venice and its lagoon. Critics include the procurement assignments and the lack of transparency in the working procedure.

In June 2014 investigations of the Italian Judiciary led to the arrest of 35 persons (including the mayor of Venice, a former governor of the Venice region and the former President of the Consorzio Venezia Nuova) accused of corruption in connection with the procurement system of the MOSE project.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:MOSE project in Venetian Lagoon, Italy
State or province:Veneto
Location of conflict:Venice
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Ports and airport projects
Urban development conflicts
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Climate change related conflicts (glaciers and small islands)
Specific commodities:Ecosystem Services
flood protection

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The MOSE includes 78 mobile gates positioned at the three inlet and divided into 4 barriers. At the Lido inlet, there will be two rows of gates of 21 and 20 elements respectively linked by the artificial island Novissima, one row of 19 gates at the Malamocco inlet and one row of 18 gates at the Chioggia inlet. The gates consist of metal box-type structures (20 meters wide for all rows, with a length varying from 18.5 to 29 m. and from 3.6 to 5 m. thick), connected to the concrete housing structures with hinges (42 tons each), the technological heart of the system, which constrain the gates to the housing structures and allow them to move. The housing structures are positioned into the lagoon bed of the three inlets between 6 and 14 meters below sea level. Here complex levelling was carried out (the seabed must be flat where the barriers are installed) and the lagoon bed was reinforced to accommodate the gates (which rest on on 12.500 concrete piles driven underground for metres).

Compressed air will be pumped into the gates when a tide of more than 110m height is expected. The air will rise up the barriers to the surface of the water to block the flow of the tide and prevent water from flowing into the lagoon. When the tide drops, the gates are filled with water again and return to their housing.

The MOSE project also includes strengthening of the coastal areas, raising the quaysides and paving of the city.

The level of investment has increased considerably compared to the initial budget, from 3,4 to 5,5 bn €. The annual technical and energy costs for the operation of the Electromechanical system are unclear.

Project area:55,000 [Venice Lagoon]
Level of Investment for the conflictive project7,491,353,400.00 USD (5,493,000,000 € )
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:110.000 [city centre population of Venezia and Chioggia and inhabitants of the islands of the lagoon]
Start of the conflict:2005
Company names or state enterprises:Consorzio Venezia Nuova (CVN) from Italy - General Contractor
Relevant government actors:The Comitatone is the body responsible for policy definition, coordination and control of implementation of all activities to safeguard Venice and the lagoon. Set up by Art. 4 of Law no. 798/84. Components: President of the Council of Ministers, Venice Water Authority, Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, Ministry of the Environment and Land Defence, Ministry of the Cultural Heritage, Ministry of Education, Universities and Scientific Research, the Veneto Region, Province and city of Venice and Chioggia, Municipality of Mira, Cavallino-Treporti Local Authority.
International and Finance InstitutionsEuropean Investment Bank (EIB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Assemblea permanente no mose, Comitato no grandi navi Associazione ambiente Venezia, Italia Nostra – Venezia

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Appeals to the european parliament


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsThe Lagoon of Venice is a system in unstable equilibrium with a specific hydrogeological balance and a unique ecosystem governed by the clash between the freshwater of the rivers and salt water from the sea. Anthropic activities have had in the years strong environmental impacts on the lagoon, on the amount of water entering the lagoon and thus on possible floods.These activities have included the reduction of the flow of the lagoon basin (a few parts buried to create fields and industrial zones) and the deepen of the major entrance channels to allow the entry to the bigger ships. The further deepening of the channels, as required by the MOSE, and the consequent more intense water exchange with the sea, would cause a significantly increased erosion of the lagoon bed. The project caused measurable damages to the lagoon environment during the lengthy building phase – like the dunes in Ca’Roman and Alberoni and the Secca del Bacan [3].
The designed system would react to events (high tides in excess of 110 cm) whose frequency is unknown. If the 110 cm limit will be trespassed frequently (from 100 to 250 times a year according with previsions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report 2007) the lagoon would become a closed basin and the pollution would became deadly (all town sewers flow into the lagoon, and depuration is done through the tidal water exchange).
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Land demarcation
Strengthening of participation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Over the years there have been several alternative proposals to the MOSE project. In 2005 the municipality of Venice issued a call for projects for alternative interventions at the inlets. The more accredited project is called gravity mobiles gates presented by the Ing. Di Tella [4] similar to the MOSE structure but consisting in a different technology and lower costs.
Local movement and environmental associations claim that any intervention on the lagoon should be constant, small and widespread, trying to eliminate the causes of high water, rather than the consequences; and aiming to restore the ecosystem of the lagoon.
This would include a reduction of the sea water intake to bring the shapes of the port mouths and of the access channels back to conditions compatible with the sustainable navigation inside the Lagoon. This crucial intervention clearly contrasts with the needs of oil traffic, which should be banned (as the law dictates since 1973), and the continuing passage of the huge cruising ships.
The movement highlight that the guidelines to be followed are indicated in the first special law to safeguard Venice requiring “gradual, experimental and reversible” interventions.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The MOSE is currently under costruction, the mobilization was concentrated in the Venetian area, was unable to get broad consensus and stop the project.
The big scandal for corruption in the MOSE project that was made public in June 2014 confirmed and corroborated longstanding concerns clearly expressed by the Assemblea Permanente No Mose.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[1]Legge 16 aprile 1973, n° 171 Interventi per la salvaguardia di Venezia (First Special Law for Venice, Interventions to safeguard Venice);171

Legge Obiettivo 2001

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[2]Principia Study commissioned by the Venice Municipality, 2009

[3]Report L’ambiente delle bocche della Laguna di Venezia in relazione ai lavori di realizzazione del sistema Mo.S.E della Direzione Ambiente e Sicurezza del Territorio, Osservatorio Naturalistico della Laguna, 2006

[4]LA PARATOIA A GRAVITÀ, Di Tella, 2005

La Laguna di Venezia e gli interventi proposti, E. Salzano, 2008

il article on the MOSE project

Telegraph articles, MOSE arrests, 06/2014

Laura Carbognin, Pietro Teatini, Alberto Tomasin, Luigi Tosi. Global change and relative sea level rise at Venice: what impact in term of flooding. Climate Dynamics (2010) 35:1039–1047

Online articles

MOSE project website

CVN website

Local movement against big ship website

Venice municipality website

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

MOSE project video

Meta information

Contributor:Marianna, CDCA (
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1343



High tide in Venice


MOSE system


MOSE floodgate