Could Venice Be Added to UNESCO’s List of Endangered Sites

3 mins

Experts say Venice is at risk from climate change and mass tourism

Global warming and the negative effects of mass tourism mean the city of Venice and its surrounding lagoons risk being placed on the UNESCO world heritage site danger list.

The iconic Italian city is at risk of ‘irreversible’ damage from overdevelopment and rising sea levels due to climate change, according to the report

The UN cultural agency say the Italian authorities must do more to protect the fragile city known as ‘La Serenissima’, which translates to ‘very serene.’

It is the second time within the space of a few years that Venice – which was inscribed on the world heritage site list in 1987 – has been threatened with the blacklist.

tourists walk through flooded Venice streets

UNESCO said in a statement: ‘The effects of the continuing deterioration due to human intervention, including continuing development, the impacts of climate change and mass tourism threaten to cause irreversible changes to the outstanding universal value of the property.

‘Moreover, the combined effects of human-induced and natural changes are causing deterioration and damage to build structures and urban areas.’

Should Venice make it onto UNESCO’s list, it will join 55 other sites where conservation has been deemed necessary including the historic centre of Odesa in Ukraine, Timbuktu in Mali, and sites in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Libya

Venice Threats

The major threats to Venice are that a warming planet is having a damaging impact by causing sea levels to rise, so the city – which is surrounded by water – is very vulnerable to flooding.

On top of this, about 28 million tourists visit Venice every year. This leads to more and more urban expansion projects, which in turn damages the city, according to UNESCO.

locals around Timbuktu in Mali
If Venice is added to the endangered list it will join places including Timbuktu in Mali

The agency believes that high-rise buildings can ‘have a significant negative visual impact’ on the city and they should be built far from the city centre.

Political opponents of the current Venetian administration add that the current mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, has achieved nothing. They claim all his attempts to control visitor numbers by a system of ticketing have proved unworkable, while his council has been selling off public housing that would have allowed more locals to continue living in the city.

The recommendation will be put to a meeting of UNESCO’s world heritage committee in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in late September for adoption.

The Venetian authorities said they would carefully read the report and speak to the Italian government.

cruise ship outside Venice
In 2021 Italy banned cruise ships weighing more than 25,000 tonnes from docking in the lagoon.

The recommendation has been made despite Italy fulfilling a request from the UN in 2021 to ban cruise ships weighing more than 25,000 tonnes from docking in the lagoon. The vessels now dock at the industrial port of Marghera.

However UNESCO said the measures proposed by Italy were ‘still insufficient and need to be further developed’ noting a ‘lack of significant progress’ by Italy in addressing the issues, saying that improvements had been further ‘hindered by a lack of overall joint strategic thinking’.

The List of World Heritage in Danger is designed to inform the international community of conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which a property was originally recognised on the World Heritage List for its cultural importance, and to encourage corrective action.

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