The Venice Lagoon is the most endangered heritage site in Europe, declared the pan-European heritage organisation Europa Nostra at an event today, 16 March, in Venice. Fifty years after the great floods in Florence and Venice mobilised the international community into action, the group, in collaboration with the European Investment Bank Institute, appealed to European, Italian and Venetian governments as well as political and business leaders to once again come together and act before it is too late. It also urged World Heritage Committee to add Venice and its Lagoon to Unesco’s World Heritage in Danger List.
Rising sea levels, swelling number of tourists, large cruise ships in the lagoon, the erosion of the sea bed, dredging deeper channels and the lack of an agreed management plan for Venice has created a perfect storm of threats to the city’s preservation.
“Europa Nostra has come to Venice today to ring the alarm bell and to remind the world that Venice cannot survive without its Lagoon,” said the organisation’s president, the opera singer Plácido Domingo. “Venice was born from the waters. The Lagoon not only represents the origin and the past of the historic city; it is also a living organism which makes the city breathe, and is therefore indispensable for ensuring the future of Venice.”
Responding to the announcement, Anna Somers Cocks, the chief executive of The Art Newspaper and the former chairman of Venice in Peril, says: “This identification of Venice as exceptionally at risk reinforces the message given in 2014 by the World Monument Fund when it put the city on its Watch list of endangered sites. Unesco is also threatening to add Venice to its World Heritage in Danger roster, so it must be time for the Italian government to begin to take its responsibility for Venice seriously.”
Francesco Bandarin, Unesco’s general-director for culture, confirmed that Unesco is currently preparing a report on Venice for the World Heritage Committee meeting in Istanbul in July, and that “Unesco takes note with great attention” to Europa Nostra’s decision to declare Venice the most endangered site.