UNESCO closely monitoring ongoing threats to Venice World Heritage site
Representatives from the city of Venice, the Italian government, UNESCO and ICOMOS came together at UNESCO Headquarters on 2 October 2019 to discuss the ongoing challenges facing Venice and its surrounding lagoon – an iconic site whose status as a World Heritage property is in jeopardy.
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987, Venice is threatened on several fronts – from overtourism, from damage caused by a steady stream of cruise ships, including ones weighing over 40,000 tons, and from the potential negative effects of new developments. This, combined with the lack of an integrated management system for the site, have put Venice’s “Outstanding Universal Value”, the hallmark of every World Heritage property, in peril.
The meeting represented an opportunity for the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, the Municipality of Venice and the Permanent Delegation of Italy to update UNESCO and ICOMOS International on these issues, and to discuss Italy’s response to the last World Heritage Committee decision on Venice. In this decision, the World Heritage Committee warned that unless significant progress was made in the state of Venice’s conservation, the Committee would consider inscribing Venice on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Italy highlighted the actions it has taken in recent months, including the completion of the Water Plan for Venice, the development of a Climate Action Plan and Morphological Plan for the Lagoon of Venice, and updates to Venice’s Management Plan. A new timeline for the implementation of Venice’s Tourism Strategy, as well as information related to alternative large ship navigation routes within the lagoon, were also presented. The World Heritage Centre proposed that, as a case study, Venice could test UNESCO’s sustainable tourism tool within the property.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Italy noted that it stands ready to invite the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS, and the RAMSAR Convention to send an advisory mission to Venice between January and March 2020. Venice will be on the agenda of the next World Heritage Committee meeting in Fuzhou, China, which will take place from June to July 2020.
The World Heritage Centre continues to monitor the situation in Venice closely and remains vigilant in the face of ongoing threats to the site.
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decisions 40 COM 7B.52 and 41 COM 7B.48, adopted at its 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) and 41st (Krakow, 2017) sessions respectively,
- Notes the efforts of the State Party and all the institutions involved to work collaboratively to protect the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, and that progress has been achieved towards the implementation of the recommendations put forward in Decisions 40 COM 7B.52 and 41 COM 7B.48, and those of the 2015 mission;
- Acknowledges the preparation of the ‘Climate Action Plan’, the ‘Water Plan for the City of Venice’ and the ‘Environmental and Morphological Plan for the Lagoon of Venice’, and requests that these important documents be formally submitted for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, prior to finalization and implementation, and encourages the State Party and its relevant agencies to liaise with the World Heritage Centre regarding the potential for the ‘Climate Action Plan’ to be shared and promoted in a manner that highlights monitoring and adaptation processes;
- Also acknowledges the ‘Project of Territorial Governance of Tourism in Venice’, which incorporates relevant policy tools, including the Sustainable Tourism Programme and the ‘Policy for the Integration of a Sustainable Development Perspective in the World Heritage Convention’, and also requests the State Party to report back to the Committee on the short term outcomes achieved by these initiatives, and the level of mitigating the negative impacts of tourism pressure;
- Welcomes the alternative navigation path that has been identified for the relocation of ships with a gross tonnage of over 40,000 tons to Marghera, and the support for the Venetian cruise industry through construction of a new terminal in Marghera, and further requests the State Party to submit detailed plans and the timeframe for the implementation of the proposed plans that will allow large ships to reach the Venice Maritime station without passing through the San Marco Basin and the Giudecca Canal;
- Also notes the pending completion of the MOSE defence system and the updated information on this project, and requests furthermore the State Party to provide regular updated information on this project, including its management and maintenance systems, and report on the medium- and long-term prospect of this project to fulfil the objective to avoid the negative impacts of climate change, especially temporary flooding and rising sea level;
- Further acknowledges the initiative of the State Party for updating the Management Plan of the property, which is an essential tool for sustaining its OUV, and its landscape and seascape setting, and requests moreover the State Party to incorporate the detailed road map and its measurable benchmarks within the updated Management Plan, additionally to supplement the document with a planned management strategy for the potential buffer zone of the property, and to submit the draft updated Management Plan for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, prior to its finalization and adoption;
- Also encourages the State Party to strengthen its monitoring system for vulnerability of heritage areas to climate change and disaster risk, and continue developing and implementing mitigation measure to reduce their risk to the OUV of the property;
- Notes with concern the lack of regular communication of the State Party with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, and reiterates its previous requests to the State Party to submit, in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, details of any newly proposed projects, together with all relevant Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) and Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA), in due time prior to irreversible decisions and implementation, including a specific section focusing on their potential impact on the OUV of the property, and addressing potential cumulative impacts;
- Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2020, 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 44th session in 2020, with a view to considering the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger if the implemented mitigation measures and the adapted management system does not result in significant and measurable progress in the state of conservation of the property.