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VENICE, Italy -- A government plan to build moveable flood barriers to protect the famous city of canals during high tides is a mistake, the mayor of Venice said Saturday.
The government has approved a $5.5 billion project to build hinged barriers in the seabed just off Venice. The barriers could be raised to ease the effect of high tides, which frequently flood St. Mark's Square.
The project is dubbed "Moses" after the Biblical figure who parted the Red Sea. Some environmentalists have protested the plans, initially approved by former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's government, for fear the barriers could turn Venice into a stagnant pond by interfering with the natural flow of water.
"We have tried in every way to tell the government that the project is wrong," Venice Mayor Massimo Cacciari said, according to the ANSA news agency. "We have produced 2,000 pages of documents, but in a democracy you must decide, and it seems that the decision has been taken."
Supporters of the project, which is expected to be completed by 2010-11, say the barriers are vital if the sinking city is to avoid disastrous flooding.
Infrastructure Minister Antonio Di Pietro said in a report submitted Friday to the center-left Cabinet that, after study and analysis, he had concluded the project should move forward.