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: since 1966 more than 1,500 projects worth over 50 million euros (mainly conservation and restoration projects)

Previous monitoring missions

October 2015: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/RAMSAR Reactive Monitoring mission; ; January 2020: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/RAMSAR Advisory mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2023

On 30 November 2022, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/394/documents/. In addition to responding to Decision 44 COM 7B.50, the document refers to actions related to the implementation of the recommendations of the 2020 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/RAMSAR Advisory mission. The report provides information on the following:

Following the last session of the Committee in which the Committee requested the State Party to ‘… develop a proposal on a set of corrective measures with a timeframe for their implementation, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 46th session,’ (Decision 44 COM 7B.50) in the course of 2021-2022, the World Heritage Centre (in its letters dated 29 September 2021, 28 June and 20 December 2022) repeatedly requested updates from the State and offered its assistance in the development of the corrective measures. The World Heritage Centre also transmitted third party information on planned projects within the property and its wider setting that might have a negative impact on its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). The State Party did not respond to the invitation to collaborate in the elaboration of the corrective measures and, in response to the various correspondence from the World Heritage Centre, provided a brief report on 14 February 2023, in which it informs that the project for the transformation of historic buildings on the island of San Pietro di Castello, which has been the subject of concerns from third parties, is not currently approved, and that the proposed projects for a new railway line to Venice airport, a new intermodal land-water terminal for fast boats connecting the islands of Burano-Mazzorbo-Torcello to the mainland, two new arrival platforms in Venice at San Giuliano and Pili, and a high-rise building project in Mestre are all currently undergoing assessment through an HIA.

The State Party provided updated information to the World Heritage Centre on 26 April 2023, confirming that a decision had been taken to dismantle the LPG storage facility in Chioggia and that a HIA procedure was still ongoing for 12 projects at different stages of planning, including some of which have received planning approval, situated within the property and its wider setting.

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

The State Party reports progress on several issues of concern to the Committee, as well as efforts to start implementing several of the recommendations of the 2020 Advisory mission. The cultural heritage conservation activities should be acknowledged, as well as the completion of the works on the temporary barriers to protect the San Marco Basilica and the surrounding area from high-water occurrences which are not managed by the MoSE. The State Party should be requested to provide the World Heritage Centre with detailed documentation on the works planned to elevate the entire San Marco insula.

The reported achievements related to sustainable tourism management by regulatory changes and management tools are positive, but the efficiency of the progress made (especially in reducing the outstanding number of tourists in the property) seems to be low or unknown.

The continued ban on large ships in the San Marco basin - Giudecca canal is appropriate, and the search for new options should be noted. The Committee should request that the result of related studies (on the environmental impacts of large ships passing through the Malamocco-Marghera canal) and the outcome of the competition (for docking points outside the Lagoon for large passenger ships and container ships) be sent to the World Heritage Centre for review and comments by the Advisory Bodies before irreversible decisions are made.

The continued recovery work following the exceptional high tide in November 2019 should be noted with satisfaction. Efforts related to the creation and reinforcement of tide barriers and the reconstruction and consolidation of beaches and coastal dunes should be also noted, as should the development of advanced tidal forecasting technology. Nevertheless, the State Party should be encouraged to continue research into the evaluation of existing, predicting and modelling of future phenomena related to climate change and its current and potential impacts on the OUV of the property. In this regard, the works to make the MoSE system fully operational and to ensure its long-term operation and maintenance should be paired, as requested by the Committee, with close monitoring (jointly by all relevant stakeholders) of the impacts of the construction and operation of the system, and the continued development of appropriate measures to mitigate any negative impacts it might have on the ecosystem of the Lagoon. In this respect, the Committee should confirm that details of the monitoring, action plans and documents relating to the morphological conditions of the Lagoon, sustainable energy use and impacts of climate change, are all still awaited by the World Heritage Centre.

Improved coordination between the different stakeholders managing the property is also noted, as well as the availability of financial resources (mostly earmarked or project-based) dedicated to enhancing the protection and management of the property, including the ecosystem of the Lagoon, and to improving the ecological condition and reducing the polluting emissions of the industrial area of Marghera.

The efforts of the State Party to update the Management Plan and make it an integrated plan for the property can be acknowledged. The plan should also include measures for the future buffer zone, and, on completions of its final draft, it should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies prior to adoption so that the resulting recommendations can be reflected in its final version. The State Party should also again be urged to resubmit a revised minor boundary modification request (responding to the requests made by the Committee in its Decision 43 COM 8B.46) for the establishment of a buffer zone. It is, however, to be noted that while the State Party reports improvements (resources allocated, projects and measures planned or implemented) on outstanding issues examined by the Committee, it is often unclear whether these apply to the World Heritage property or, in general, to the Metropolitan City of Venice (which comprises 43 municipalities, nine of which are directly linked to the area of the World Heritage property).

Information related to the proposed development of World Heritage focused HIAs for a range of interventions should be acknowledged. However, it is observed that the State Party is unable to fully comply with the Committee’s request to halt all newly proposed large-scale projects within the property and its setting until a set of measures related to planning, management and governance are put in place as some of these projects have already been approved. In addition, regarding the evaluation of impacts of developments and changes, the State Party needs to be reminded to integrate measures that ensure the protection and preservation of the OUV of the property in the EIA and SEA processes and be urged to give priority to the finalisation of the property’s Management, the Integrated Master Plan, and the skyline policy, which need to support decision-making and guide any future development. Specific World Heritage focused impact assessments need to be carried out if no other impact assessment procedure is in place to considers the impacts of planned or proposed projects (within the property and its wider setting) on the OUV. Finally, it is of concern that the State Party has not been communicating in a sustained and substantive manner with the World Heritage Centre between the last Committee session in 2021 and the submission of its state of conservation report in 2022, as requested by the Committee, and that it did not engage in consultation to developing the corrective measures. The proposed corrective measures, as annexed to the state of conservation report submitted by the State Party, are currently insufficient and not detailed enough and should be subject to further discussions and exchanges.

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 OUV of the property. Some of these long-standing issues have already led to the deterioration of the inherent characteristics of the property and its attributes, especially related to its cultural and social identity and integrity. Implemented and planned small- and large-scale changes, developments, particularly high-rise buildings which occur predominantly within in the wider setting of the property (in its potential future buffer zone), are likely to have significant negative visual impact on the integrity of the property. Moreover, the combined effects of human induced and natural changes (due to sea level rise, extreme weather events and other climate change induced phenomena) are causing deterioration and damage to build structures and urban areas, and threaten the integrity of the cultural, environmental and landscape attributes and values of the property. Many of these issues, which individually represent threats to the OUV of the property, but which also have a cumulative adverse impact, remain unresolved or only temporarily addressed. This is demonstrated by the lack of significant progress in addressing the complex issues affecting the property as evidenced by the limited reported achievements in implementing the Committee’s decisions and past mission recommendations. The resolution of these long-standing but urgent issues is further hindered by a lack of overall joint strategic vision for the long-term preservation of the property and low effectiveness of integrated coordinated management at all stakeholder levels. All these factors combined lead the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to maintain their view that the property continues to face ascertained and potential danger as defined in paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines, and therefore, recommends its inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger. It is hoped that such inscription will result in greater dedication and mobilisation of local, national and international stakeholders, for the development of effective and sustainable corrective measures that address these long-standing issues.

Decision Adopted: 45 COM 7B.189

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 38 COM 7B.27, 40 COM 7B.52, 41 COM 7B.48, 43 COM 7B.86, 43 COM 8B.46 and 44 COM 7B.50 adopted at its 38th (Doha, 2014), 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016), 41st (Krakow, 2017), 43rd (Baku, 2019), and extended 44th (Fuzhou/online, 2021) sessions respectively,
  3. Welcomes the State Party’s efforts to implement previous Committee decisions and several of the 2020 mission recommendations, including:
    1. Continuing enhancing tourism management tools, public spaces, and public housing possibilities,
    2. Improving coordination between the different stakeholders to enhance the protection of the ecosystem of the Lagoon and reduce the polluting emissions from the industrial area of Marghera,
    3. Creating and reinforcing tide barriers, and the reconstruction and consolidation of beaches and coastal dunes, as well as the development of advanced tidal forecasting technology,
    4. Reconfirmation of the ban on large ships from the San Marco Basin - Giudecca Canal and the continuing efforts to find new options for docking large ships outside the Lagoon,
    5. Still ongoing update of the Management Plan, as well as the development of World Heritage-focused Heritage Impact Assessments for a set of projects,
    6. Adopting an experimental system for managing tourist flows, based on an entry fee and a compulsory booking method;
  4. Considers nevertheless that further progress still needs to be made by the State Party in addressing individual threats and their cumulative impact, and therefore requests the State Party, as a matter of priority, to:
    1. Continue research on the evaluation of existing phenomena, prediction and modelling of future phenomena related to climate change and its current and potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property and develop related action plans,
    2. Fully complete and operationalise the MoSE system and ensure its long-term management and maintenance including through establishing with urgency the proposed management authority,
    3. Ensure close joint monitoring by all relevant stakeholders of the impacts of the MoSE system (construction and operation), and continue developing appropriate measures to mitigate any negative impacts it might have on the ecosystem of the Lagoon,
    4. Submit the results of related studies on the environmental impact of large ships passing through the Malamocco-Marghera canal and the competition for docking points outside the Lagoon for large passenger ships and container ships to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies before irreversible decisions are made, furthermore, to continue to prioritise the option of redirecting large ships to other more suitable ports in the region as a final solution,
    5. Continue submitting action plans and documents related to the morphological conditions of the Lagoon and sustainable energy use to the World Heritage Centre for review and comments by the Advisory Bodies
    6. Continue working towards a sustainable tourism model for the property and developing efficient strategies and measures that will reduce the exceptionally high number of visitors to the property, significantly improve the quality of life of the residents and the requalification of urban areas to their former residential use, as well as creating a more diverse resilient economic basis for future of the property and its inhabitants;
  5. Also notes the information provided on the construction of temporary barriers to protect the San Marco Basilica and the surrounding area from the high-water phenomena not managed by the MoSE, and furthermore requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, as soon as possible, detailed documentation on the works planned to elevate the entire San Marco insula, for review by the Advisory Bodies, prior to any irreversible decision being taken and implemented;
  6. Also considers that a strategic long-term vision for the long-term preservation of the property has to be further developed, and that integrated coordinated management at all stakeholder-levels needs to be further strengthened, and therefore urges the State Party to:
    1. Finalise the updating of the Management Plan with adequate measures for the future buffer zone as well, and develop in parallel an Integrated Master Plan and a skyline policy for the property,
    2. Integrate measures in line with Paragraph 118bis of the Operational Guidelines that ensure the protection and preservation of the OUV of the property in the planning, Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment processes, and ensure that specific World Heritage-focused impact assessments are carried out if no other impact assessment procedures are in place to consider the impacts of planned or proposed projects within the property and its wider setting,
    3. Establish processes in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines for submitting planned/proposed changes and projects to the World Heritage Centre in a timely manner for review by the Advisory Bodies and ensure that impact assessment processes and the Management Plan support the relevant decision-making,
    4. Resubmit a revised minor boundary modification request for the establishment of a buffer zone, responding to the requests made in previous Committee decisions;
  7. Further considers that reported large scale development projects that are currently being investigated for implementation in the property hold potential, individually and cumulatively, to have an adverse impact on the OUV of the property, and therefore expresses concern that these projects, when implemented, will add to the possible deterioration effects of human intervention, climate change impacts and mass tourism, which could threaten to result in irreversible change, and substantial loss of historical authenticity and cultural significance, which are an integral part of the OUV of the property, if appropriate measures are not implemented;
  8. Expresses concern that, despite the progress assessed in the implementation of previous Committee decisions and mission recommendations some important issues remain to be addressed, related in particular to mass tourism, development projects and climate change;
  9. Further considers that the corrective measures proposed by the State Party need to be further developed, and therefore also urges the State Party to continue, in the implementation of previous Committee decisions and recommendations of the 2020 Advisory mission, a structured consultation process with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
  10. Encourages the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Advisory mission to the property to assess the overall state of conservation of the property and to engage with the State Party in its efforts to address the issues which could have a potential impact on the preservation of the property;
  11. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2024, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 47th session.