1.         Venice and its Lagoon (Italy) (C 394)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1987

Criteria  (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)(v)(vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/394/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/394/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Programme for the Safeguarding of Venice: more than 1,500 projects worth over 50 million euro.

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Concern over the announcement of a universal exhibition in Venice (issue resolved)

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/394/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2014

In response to the appeal launched by UNESCO in 1966, private organizations were established in a number of countries to collect and channel contributions to restore and preserve Venice. UNESCO Venice Office administers the "Joint UNESCO-Private Committees Programme for the Safeguarding of Venice”, cooperating with the Association of Private Committees and Superintendencies of Monuments and Galleries of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage in Venice in two main areas: the restoration of monuments and works of art and the provision of funding for training of specialists in conservation of cultural heritage. The Private Committees have funded – within the joint UNESCO – Private Committees Programme – more than 1,500 projects worth over 50 million euro.

After receiving information from the civil society, the World Heritage Centre requested in 2012 the State Party to provide clarifications on a number of large infrastructure, navigation and construction projects within the property and its setting including Veneto region, as well as on the progress in the adoption of a planned decree to stop large cruise ships and tankers. ICOMOS reviewed some projects (eg. Dogaletto – Giare Project, Palais Lumière) and provided extensive comments to the Italian authorities. 

In the light of the above, the World Heritage Centre requested the State Party in August 2013 to provide further information, as a basis for the submission of a state of conservation report to the World Heritage Committee.

On 29 January 2014, the State Party submitted a detailed state of conservation report, with annexes describing a number of new large maritime infrastructures to allow ultra-large ships mainly handle oil, bulk and container traffic to call at the Port of Venice. The report is available on https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/394/documents/. It also submitted the Management Plan of the property and a proposal for the establishment of a buffer zone.

The State Party reported that the system of mobile gates called MoSE (Experimental Electromechanical Module) to control high waters temporarily isolating the lagoon from the sea is under construction and will be operational by 2016. Projects currently being developed include an offshore platform at some 8 miles off the Malamocco port, a new terminal “Motorways of the Sea” in Fusina, a new container terminal on the site of former industrial facilities in Porto Marghera, a new multi-functional facility between Venice and its maritime station, and a touristic port in San Nicolò. The report confirms that the project of Palais Lumière has been withdrawn.

The State Party highlighted that the passage of medium to high tonnage ships is progressively causing the erosion of the lagoon bed, mud banks and salt marshes, and that, accordingly to the Piano di Assetto del Territorio (PAT) of the Municipality of Venice, the goal is the final exclusion of ships incompatible with the historic city and with the lagoon. It reported that numerous proposals and alternative projects for the passage of cruise ships within St. Mark's Basin and the Giudecca Canal are currently being examined by various organizations and institutional bodies, and that transitional measures to mitigate the traffic of large cruise ships were established. The State Party informed that in conformity with the 2013 Decree concerning the “Identification of access ways to the Port of Venice Maritime Station alternative to those prohibited to ships over 40,000 GT”, the Maritime Authority identified the Contorta Sant’Angelo canal, pending the results from the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIAs), as an alternative waterway. It also indicated that a Steering Committee meets regularly to monitor the implementation of the Management Plan, as well as to evaluate corrective and mitigating measures to sustain the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The State Party has made some efforts to develop a range of mechanisms to safeguard Venice and its lagoon landscape that cover 50,000 km². The nature reserve Valle d’Averto (at the North-West edge of the Lagoon) is also designated as a Ramsar Site within the framework of the 1971 Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, the Ramsar Convention.

Irreversible transformations could however derive from proposals for large infrastructure, navigation and construction projects in the Lagoon and its immediate setting would appear to have the potential to seriously jeopardize the OUV of the property.

Taking into account that the State Party submitted the majority of information regarding new constructions and infrastructure developments in Italian, the World Heritage Centre requested the State Party, in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, to submit information regarding such projects in one of the working languages, including Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) for review by the Advisory Bodies before any decision is taken.  

Given the large number of projects that are planned or on-going in and around the lagoon (including new off-shore platform, new terminals, tourist port and large leisure facilities), the cumulative impacts on the OUV of the property needs to be comprehensively assessed. The results need to be submitted in English or French to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies.

There are also some concerns about the negative environmental impacts triggered by motor boats, cruise ships and oil tankers. The goal aiming to exclude all ships incompatible with the historic city and with the lagoon, as stated in the Territorial Plan (PAT) has not been achieved and that the City Council has fostered a series of in-depth studies. Following media reports about the decision of the regional court of the Veneto region to suspend the law reducing the number of cruise ships entering from the Adriatic, the World Heritage Centre requested the State Party, in conformity with Paragraph 174 of the Operational Guidelines, to provide detailed information regarding legal instruments and regulations applicable to this World Heritage property. 

It is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to implement all relevant measures to prohibit the largest ships to enter the Lagoon Alternative means to allow cruise tourists to enjoy and understand the value and frailty of Venice should be developed with the tourism and cruise companies.

The exceptionally high tourism pressure on the city of Venice and the extensive tourism related activities that can potentially threaten the OUV of the property if no mechanisms are in place to ensure that no irreversible transformations occur should also be highlighted. A sustainable tourism strategy, which includes options to accommodate development needs, is a priority for implementation within the framework of the Management Plan. The ICOMOS technical review provided recommendations for the revision of the Management Plan and for tentative buffer zone that need to be undertaken accordingly.   

Currently, the responsibilities over the Venice Lagoon are divided among the national, regional and local authorities where the Venice Water Authority (MAV) plays a decisive role. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to establish a strong coordination among all stakeholders concerned to ensure the hydro-geological balances of the Venice Lagoon and the whole drainage basin, as well as the protection of all attributes that convey the OUV of the property.

Given the current situation, a reactive monitoring mission is needed to assess current conditions at the property and assist with the evaluation of project proposals and identify options that are in accordance to the OUV of the property, as well as to review if the property is faced with threats which could have deleterious effects on its inherent characteristics and meets the criteria for its inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger in line with Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines. It is recommended that the Committee suggest to the State Party to invite a Ramsar expert to participate in this mission.

Decision Adopted: 38 COM 7B.27

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 13 COM IX.22, adopted at its 13th session (UNESCO, 1989),
  3. Takes note of the State Party’s efforts to develop a range of mechanisms to safeguard Venice and its lagoon landscape and of the approved Management Plan resulting from extensive consultations among all stakholders, and encourages the State Party to undertake its revision based on the results from the technical evaluation by ICOMOS;
  4. Expresses its concern about the extent and scale of proposals for large infrastructure, navigation and construction projects in the Lagoon that can potentially jeopardize the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property by generating irreversible transformations on the landscape and seascape of the property;
  5. Requests the State Party to undertake Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) for these projects to assess both individual and overall cumulative impacts of the potential modifications of the Lagoon and its immediate land and seascape, in order to prevent any irreversible transformations and potential threat to the property’s OUV and to enhance the protection of the property in relation to sustaining its OUV;
  6. Also expresses its concern about the negative environmental impacts triggered by medium motor boats to high tonnage ships that have progressively caused erosion of the lagoon beds, mud banks and salt marshes, and which could represent potential threat to the property’s OUV and also requests the State Party to enforce speed limits and regulate the number and type of boats;
  7. Urges the State Party to prohibit the largest ships and tankers to enter the Lagoon and further requests the State Party to adopt, as a matter of urgency, a legal document introducing such a process;
  8. Recognises the exceptionally high tourism pressure on the city of Venice, and the extensive tourism related activities, urges the State Party to prioritise the development of a sustainable tourism strategy, and also encourages the State Party to develop jointly with the major tourism and cruise companies alternative solutions to allow cruise tourists to enjoy and understand the value of Venice and also its fragility;
  9. Further encourages financial institutions and agencies to ensure that Heritage and/or Environmental Impact Assessments are carried out to determine that there are no negative impacts on the OUV, before planning investment in large-scale developments within the property and its setting;
  10. Encourages furthermore the State Party to continue with the assessment of the hydrology and geo-mechanics functioning of the Venice Lagoon and its whole drainage basin; and invites the State Party to establish a strong coordination among all stakeholders concerned to ensure the hydro-geological balances of the Venice Lagoon and the whole drainage basin, as well as the protection of all attributes that convey the OUV of the property;
  11. Also takes note of the proposal for the establishment of the buffer zone and also invites the State Party to undertake its revision in line with the ICOMOS technical review and submit to the World Heritage Centre the minor boundary modification by 1 February 2015;
  12. Requests furthermore the State Party to invite a joint UNESCO/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to the property in 2015 to assess current conditions at the property, including the evaluation of potential impacts derived from development proposals and identify options for development proposals in accordance to the OUV of the property, as well as to review if the property is faced with threats which could have deleterious effects on its inherent characteristics and meets the criteria for its inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger in line with Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines , and recommends to the State Party to also invite a representative of the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention to take part in this reactive monitoring mission;
  13. Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, a progress report on the state of conservation of the property, and by 1 December 2015 a state of conservation report on the implementation of the above, both reports including a 1-page executive summary, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.