Venice nurtures its lagoon back to health

Carlo Marchesi (L) and Adriano Croitoru transplant reeds in the Venetian lagoon as part of a project that aims to restore its environment by increasing fresh water input.

Carlo Marchesi (L) and Adriano Croitoru transplant reeds in the Venetian lagoon as part of a project that aims to restore its environment by increasing fresh water input.

AFP/Celine Cornu

VENICE - Venice may be famed for Saint Mark's Square or the Bridge of Sighs, but the Italian city has another jewel that is often overlooked: its lagoon.

Once home to a rich variety of fish and birds, mankind's meddling has raised the water's salt content dramatically. 

However, an environmental project aims to restore it to its former glory, by introducing more fresh water.

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"The idea is to recreate an environment that has been lost over time, because rivers were diverted out of the lagoon," Rossella Boscolo Brusa, the project's leader, told AFP. 

The diversions were done to clean up swampy areas and combat malaria, said Brusa, a researcher at the Higher Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (Ispra).

But the move had an unforeseen consequence.

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"It led to increasingly salty water and drop in the number of reeds, a very precious habitat for protected species, or species of commercial interest," she said.

Dubbed "Life Lagoon Refresh", the project, launched in 2017, diverts a freshwater flow from the Sile River into the lagoon.

A man-made canal, operational since May, allows the flow of water to be modulated according to the project's needs or high tides.

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Barriers made of biodegradable coconut fibres contain the fresh water in the target area and help the reeds develop.

In total, the project aims to restore about 20 hectares of reeds.

Source
AFP