UNESCO Threatens to List Venice as Endangered World Heritage Site
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Monday recommended Venice to be listed as an endangered World Heritage Site, as the city is at risk of irreparable damage from climate change and overtourism.
“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,” UNESCO said, as reported by France 24.
UNESCO said that Venice has faced long-running problems with overtourism and development that threaten this World Heritage Site, which has been on the list since 1987. UNESCO noted that little has been done to better protect the city, and even Italy’s recent protective measures have been insufficient.
As such, UNESCO has proposed to place the city on the World Heritage in Danger list, and this recommendation will be considered for adoption by the World Heritage Committee at its meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in September. In the meantime, Venice officials will review the recommendation and discuss it with the Italian government.
The World Heritage in Danger list was created by the World Heritage Committee to show heritage sites that require “major operations” as they face “serious and specific dangers,” per Article 11.4 in the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, created in 1972.
In 2021, Italy banned cruise ships from entering the Venice lagoon, as UNESCO was at that time also considering placing Venice on the list of endangered World Heritage Sites.
Earlier this year, the city’s canals were drying up from a prolonged drought. In just late 2019, most of the city was underwater from intense flooding, made worse by climate change.
“For many years Venetians experienced the flooding as simply a nuisance,” Shaul Bassi, English literature professor at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, said, as reported by Royal Museums Greenwich. “For kids it was a sort of entertainment — wearing your Wellington boots, wading through the water. Then of course, things became more serious. Now I think we need to fully understand that flooding is not just at a local level. Venice is at the forefront of the battle against climate change.”
In addition to climate impacts, Venice has faced overtourism, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic, with about 28 million visitors each year, according to the BBC.
As The Guardian reported, these impacts have led the number of locals living in the historic center of the city to fall below 50,000 as of summer 2022.
UNESCO stated that it hopes that the recommendation for Venice as an endangered World Heritage Site “will result in greater dedication and mobilisation of local, national and international stakeholders.”