Venice risks move to UNESCO world heritage site in danger


MILAN — UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee is debating Thursday whether to designate Venice and its lagoon environment as an endangered world heritage site due to the impact of over-tourism alongside its steady decline in population and poor governance.

The Italian government moved this this month to avoid the designation, rerouting massive cruise ships from the historic center to an industrial port still within the Venice lagoon. The ships’ passage through the Giudecca Canal, which resumed recently after a long pandemic pause, was cited as a key reason for placing Venice’s status at risk.

The recommendation was made by World Heritage Center in June, with the aim of alerting the international community to the urgency of Venice’s situation. The center’s director, Mechtild Roessler, told AP that the designation is not proposed lightly. Its goal is to coalesce an international response to help sites in danger and resolve issues, he said.

A decision could come later Thursday.

Still, such a designation is widely viewed as a rebuke for the local management of World Heritage Sites, a status that recognizes outstanding universal value to humanity.

A consortium of conservation groups has strongly urged the World Heritage Committee, meeting in China, to place Venice on the danger list “without delay” so that the historic canal city and its lagoon can get the attention “the site so desperately needs.” The signatories are We Are Here Venice, Citizens for Air, World Wildlife Fund Venice, the National Trust of Italy and the Italian Bird Protection League.

“The last-ditch attempts by the national government to show it is seriously trying to address key challenges is encouraging but still far from the total change in approach necessary for effectively managing the site,’’ said Jane da Mosto, executive director of We Are Here Venice.

She said her group and others “are prepared to contribute to the radical rethink necessary and to strive to get Venice back on the list promptly,” noting that Venice has the potential to be an example for other sites.

But she said public, private sector and civil society need to work better together.

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