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Italy goes big to save Venice as it sinks into the sea

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Luigi Costantini/AP

(Read caption) Tourists walk on wooden boards set up as walkways over high water floods in St. Mark's Square, in Venice, Italy.

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Venetians have been coping with tidal flooding, or “acqua alta,” for centuries. A recent study suggests the problem may be worsening faster than previously believed.

But a multibillion-dollar system to be implemented starting next year could help prevent major flooding, according to two engineers who presented the project yesterday at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass.

According to scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, the University of Miami, and Tele-Rilevamento Europa, an Italian company specializing in ground deformation measurement, the lagoon city is sinking, and won’t stop any time soon.

The team, who published their findings in the March issue of Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, combined GPS and space-borne radar information on the lagoon over the past 10 years and came to the conclusion that the city is sinking about two millimeters (0.08 inches) per year. This contradicts previous studies, according to which Venice’s land subsidence, the scientific term that refers to its slow sinking into the waters, had stopped after the city discontinued groundwater pumping in the 1990s, as reported by the Italian newspaper Il Gazzettino.

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