Venice warning as UN experts say Italian hotspot should be put on 'danger list'

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Venice warning as UN experts say Italian hotspot should be put on
Venice warning as UN experts say Italian hotspot should be put on 'danger list'

Too many tourists and rising sea levels could see Venice suffer "irreversible" damage, the UN's cultural agency has said.

The unique and iconic Italian city has been recommended for Unesco's World Heritage in Danger list, along with the lagoon which surrounds the 120 islands that make it up.

The UN organisation has said Italy is not doing enough to protect the city from the impact of climate change and mass tourism, arguing that Venice faces "long-standing but urgent issues" that are not being solved.

Continuing sea level rise, caused by global warming, is expected to push waters up further and further by the end of the century, by between 30cm and 120cm. If the higher end of predictions are accurate - and there is little to suggest that they won't be - then much of the city will be permanently flooded.

Residents and holidaymakers had a taste of what that may be like in November 2019, when Venice suffered its second-worst flooding event since records began almost 100 years ago. Onlookers were stunned to see the low lying Saint Marc's Square covered in several feet of water.

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Venice warning as UN experts say Italian hotspot should be put on 'danger list'Venice is likely to be badly affected by sea level rises (AFP via Getty Images)

Another issue facing Venice is that many of the buildings are sinking. The foundations of its seemingly floating structures are constructed using a system of piles - long lengths of timber that are pushed vertically into the loose mud and clay of the lagoon below.

The solid bedrock is much further below this, meaning the city's builders pushed the foundations into compressed clay layer. While this has worked well, the buildings are still moving slowly and have sunk 15cm over the past century. Builders and engineer are unsure how to stop the decline.

The issue of overtourism is one that was also highlighted in the Unesco report, despite being one that the Venetian authorities have been attempting to tackle. On a single day during the 2019 Carnival, some 193,000 people squeezed into the historic centre, putting huge strain on the buildings and services there.

Venice has been preparing to introduce a fee for day-trippers to control visitor numbers, but this has been delayed by objections. The cost for entering the city will range from about £2.50 to £9 per day when it is eventually brought in.

Venice warning as UN experts say Italian hotspot should be put on 'danger list'Unesco has urged Venice to tackle its problems (AFP via Getty Images)

When Unesco suggested Venice be added to the danger list two years ago, it avoided the shame of a place by making some last minute emergency measures. This included the ban large ships - such as cruise ships - in the San Marco Canal.

A spokesperson for the Venice municipality said they will "carefully read" the proposal, Reuters reports.

One of Venice's former mayors has accused the international heritage agency of being "one of the most expensive and useless bodies on the face of the earth", pushing back against the criticism made in the report.

"They don't give us any funding to make changes, all they do is criticise… As if Venice needed Unesco to be a world heritage site! We need more action and fewer words," he said, the BBC reported.

Currently Unesco lists 55 World Heritage sites globally as being "in danger", with a further 204 that are actively being monitored by the agency due to the threats they face. Australia's Great Barrier Reef narrowly avoided making it on to this year's list.

Milo Boyd

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