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Advisors to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have recommended that Venice be added to the international agency’s “World Heritage in Danger” list.
The recommendation (or “draft decision”) was made Monday following finalization of the organization’s annual conservation report. Discussions for potentially adding Italy’s iconic sinking city to UNESCO’s endangered list have been put on the provisional agenda for its plenary session, taking place July 16–31, according to CNN Travel. The World Heritage Committee will make the final decision.
Should it pass, UNESCO’s proposal would, “inscribe Venice and its lagoon (Italy) on the list of World Heritage in Danger,” in light of the city facing, “ascertained and potential danger due to individual threats and their cumulative impacts.”
This counsel was prompted in no small part by the continued sailing of large cruise ships through Venice’s delicate lagoon and through the Giudecca Canal to dock in its historic city center, despite the Italian government’s ban on such activity announced in March 2021.
At that time, the government also demanded that tenders be opened for construction of a future maritime terminal outside of the lagoon. In the meantime, it planned to redirect large vessels to dock at Marghera’s industrial port, which is also located within the lagoon—though, at least, outside of the city center.
Yet, with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s resignation and the resulting collapse of Italy’s government in January, no practicable action has been taken. Marghera Port is still unprepared to receive cruise ships, so the summer’s first cruises to resume sailing have been continuing to dock in the city center, albeit amid local protests.
The UNESCO committee wrote in its report: “While legal bans already exist for ships over 40,000 gross tons to enter the Venice Lagoon, it has no practical effect, as no alternative exists for the mooring of these large ships. The State Party should continue searching for a long-term solution with utmost urgency, prioritizing the option of banning large ships from the Lagoon altogether, and preferably redirecting them to more suitable ports in the region.”
While cruising within the centuries-old city’s waterways is harming its integrity, the heritage committee also noted that Venice’s “inherent characteristics” were also being deteriorated by other factors. It detailed the “complex impacts of mass tourism, the constant decrease of population, and the basic deficiencies in governance and cooperated management which has led to a significant loss of historical authenticity within Venice.”
“The continued deteriorating effects of human intervention, combined with climate change on the vulnerable lagoon ecosystem, threaten to result in irreversible change,” the report continued.
UNESCO also told CNN, “Climate change (flooding and sea-level rise) impacting the vulnerable ecosystem of the lagoon is also a problem,” as well as, “undeclared development and construction projects, governance and management problems.” It said, “Sufficient improvement in the state of conservation and further progress in mitigation has not been demonstrated by the State Party, despite its efforts.”
The destination’s potential addition to UNESCO’s endangered list may sound punitive, but, in fact, may prove advantageous. Such status would entitle Venice’s municipal and Italy’s central government to request, “technical and even economic help from the international community to safeguard the outstanding universal value,” a spokesperson told CNN.