The UN art heritage agency has said it would examine a proposal to put Venice on its endangered list if the lagoon city does not issue a permanent ban on cruise ships docking there, according to the Italian news agency Ansa.
Unesco said on Monday it will discuss the issue at its plenary session on July 16-31. If approved, the agency could demand urgent action by the Italian government by next February.
Unesco warned that Venice’s survival will be even more in peril if the lagoon city doesn’t issue a permanent ban on cruise ships.
Early in June, Venetians were caught by surprise when a cruise liner sailed into the lagoon city for the first time since the pandemic began, despite an announcement from the Italian government that the ships would be banned from the historic centre. The plan was for the ships to be diverted to the industrial port of Marghera while plans were made for the construction of a cruise terminal outside the lagoon.
Watch: Protests on the water over first Venice cruise ship in 17 months
The decree was approved by the lower house of the Italian parliament in April, but major infrastructure work will be needed to make it possible to redirect cruise ships to Marghera port.
In the meantime, the only way for the ships to enter Venice is via the Giudecca canal, where in June 2019 a 13-deck vessel operated by MSC crashed into a wharf and tourist boat, injuring five people.
“A long-term solution is urgently needed,’’ said Unesco. “A solution that will prevent total access to the lagoon, redirecting them to more suitable ports in the area.’’
“Unfortunately, the Unesco decision has been in the air for some time,” said the Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini.
“Putting Venice on the UN endangered list would be a serious problem for our country, and there is no more time to waste. An important step has already been taken with the latest decree but we must do more and immediately prevent the passage of large ships in the Giudecca canal,” he said.
Famous figures in the arts, including Mick Jagger and Tilda Swinton, recently signed a letter urging Rome to take urgent action to safeguard the lagoon city.
Watch: Rare moment two dolphins swim near Venice Grand Canal