UNESCO recommends Venice be added to its world heritage in danger list. The organisation says the city faces “irreversible” damage from a range of threats, including the climate crisis and mass tourism. This is not the first time UNESCO has said this.
The UN’s education, science and culture agency, UNESCO, said the Lagoon city is at risk of “irreversible” damage, and the Italian authorities need to do more to protect it.
The recommendation will be put to a meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in Riyadh in September. The same was said in 2019 when UNESCO warned the city about the “damage caused by a steady stream of cruise ships,”. At the eleventh hour, the Italian administration banned the large ships to avoid what it called “the real risk” of the city being listed as World Heritage in Danger. ItalyNewsOnline reported on the ban of cruise ships in July 2021.
Venice’s fragile ecosystem and beautiful architecture at risk
After years of hesitation, the Italian government finally actied in 2021 to ban cruise ships and protect the lagoon city of Venice. It has also introduced the MOSE flood barrier to reduce the effect of high tides.
However, the city remains under serious threat, UNESCO warned this week.
On Monday, UNESCO proposed to include Venice and its lagoon on its World Heritage in Danger list. It said the city had not made enough progress in preventing damage from mass tourism, climate change and development projects. All the corrective measures Italy has proposed “are still insufficient.”
Not all Venice’s would-be protectors agree with the UN organisation’s proposal. Renato Brunetta leads a foundation aiming to make Venice the world’s capital of sustainability. He said the city was better equipped than most places to face today’s challenges thanks to numerous initiatives.
“Venice has been a more fragile city than the others,” he said. “Paradoxically now it’s the most secure.”
On the other hand, climate activists say Venice and Italy should not miss this opportunity to protect the city.
UNESCO’s recommendation is not yet final: It will go to a vote next month at the World Heritage Committee, made up of 21 member states, including Italy.
Not the first time the endangered list has loomed large
In 2019 UNESCO warned the city about the “damage caused by a steady stream of cruise ships,”. Finally, in 2021, the government banned the ships to avoid what it called “the real risk” of the city being listed as World Heritage in Danger.
The MOSE flood barrier is not complete, UNESCO said, and needs modernisation and maintenance. The organisation acknowledges there are projects in the pipeline, but that they are slow and need to continue apace. It also urged authorities to reduce pollution at the nearby industrial port of Marghera. It is to this port, which many cruise ships are diverted with smaller boats shuttling tourists into the city.
UNESCO also said Italy had not responded to its invitation to collaborate on corrective measures it had previously requested.
Mass tourism is both a blessing and a curse for Venice. The large numbers have led to a reduction in permanent residents in the city, and cruise ships are a main method of transport to the city. During summer months, movement through the city is very difficult as the narrow lanes become highly congested. However, tourism now keeps the city’s economy afloat.
A tourist ticketing system has been floated numerous times, but has still yet to be implemented. This despite the mayor’s insistence it would start on 16th January this year.
It will be interesting to see just what the Venetian and Italian authorities resort to this time to delay the inclusion of Venice on the World Heritage in Danger list.