UNESCO warns that Venice is an at-risk heritage site

Climate change in Venice

 VENICE - - UNESCO has implored “Put Venice on the list of heritages at risk” as climate change and mass tourism threaten it.

 Venice could be included by UNESCO in the list of endangered sites. This was proposed by experts from the same UN organisation ahead of the 21-member meeting of the World Heritage Committee. 

 The lagoon city was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987. 

 The newspapers Repubblica and Le Figaro revealed the details of this when they published a UNESCO document. At the centre of the experts' concerns, including those of ICOMOS (the International Council for Monuments and Sites), are the management of mass tourism, urban development initiated without an impact study, motorised boats within the lagoon, and the lagoon's environmental problems. 

 UNESCO’s document speaks of possible “irreversible damage” due to “the effects of continuous deterioration,” according to Repubblica, “due to human intervention, including continuous urban development, the impacts of climate change and mass tourism.”

 As early as 2021, UNESCO experts had proposed declaring the lagoon city endangered, which Italy had avoided by banning the entry of large cruise ships into the basin and canal of San Marco and the Giudecca Canal.

 According to Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, UNESCO recognises the work done by Italy to “better protect the lagoon,” but considers it insufficient. 

 For experts, “significant progress” still needs to be made. More generally, a “long-term strategy” is needed to avoid “irreversible changes” and “the loss of historical authenticity.” Experts also believe that certain urban development projects and uncontrolled tourist development endanger the integrity of the lagoon city.

 UNESCO does not plan, at least for now, to withdraw Venice from its list of 900 world heritage sites: the inclusion of an asset on the list of sites at risk should be a stimulus to act. 

 “UNESCO has responsibilities towards classified sites,” Le Figaro was told by the organisation's Paris office. 

 If the recommendation were to be approved, Italy would find itself on a list that includes 55 'endangered' sites in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Lebanon, and Ukraine, all countries plagued by conflict or lack of resources. 

 If Venice were to be included on the list, notes the Paris newspaper, it would be "humiliating" for Italy, as it is for the other countries listed. 

 The committee that will vote on the recommendation will meet in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from September 10 to 25. 

 The case of Venice, which hosted the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention in 2002, is expected to create 'a shock wave' aimed at urging the authorities to act, is the hope at UNESCO headquarters according to Le Figaro.

 The Municipality of Venice has made it clear that it will “read the proposed decision carefully” and “will discuss it with the government, which is the state party with which UNESCO deals.”