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Wednesday, December 30, 1998 Published at 21:32 GMT

World: Europe

Italy rejects Venetian barrier scheme

The Italian government has shelved a controversial engineering plan to protect the historic port city of Venice from flooding, saying its priority is cleaning up the lagoon.

The project included the construction of mobile, steel-and-rubber barriers which could be lowered to stop unusually high tides from the Adriatic Sea entering the Venetian lagoon.

It would have cost almost two-and-a-half-billion dollars and was recommended as the best possible solution by an international panel of experts.

However, the Environment Minister, Edo Ronchi, said money would first be spent on preventing the lagoon from turning into what he called "a bowl of pollution".

Venice was badly damaged by floods caused by storms in the Adriatic two years ago.

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