Italia Nostra – Venezia: Press Release
The Mayor in Paris to defend the indefensible
The complaint presented five years ago by the Venice section of Italia Nostra to the general directors of UNESCO continues to bear fruit. Following the complaint and the steps that resulted (inspection of Venice by the UNESCO Commission, work also related to the complaint on the part of citizens’ associations), UNESCO’s ultimatum was sent to the City and Government, setting the first of February 2017 as the deadline for the presentation of a plan to safeguard the characteristics that make Venice and the Lagoon a “World Heritage Site”. The Commission has largely accepted the complaints and concerns that we exposed and made public on our web site. Now, close to the deadline, Mayor Brugnaro is obliged to run to Rome to prepare, in the name of the city and the national government (the two entities officially responsible for the correct maintenance of World Heritage Sites), some demonstration that things have changed and that requested measures have been taken, or at least that a Plan of Management has been prepared and approved for eliminating risk factors: in particular the Commission has requested “the urgent adoption of a law to forbid the entrance of the biggest cruise ships and tankers in the Lagoon,” and as regards tourism has expressed “extreme concern” and requested “a strategy for sustainable tourism” (cited from the document approved by the UNESCO General Assembly at Istanbul in July 2015). But in reality, as every Venetian knows, nothing has changed, and no measure has been taken. For this reason the director generals of four ministries have been dragged to Rome (Cultural Heritage, Tourism, Infrastructure, Environment) to put together a text to present to UNESCO. With Mayor Brugnaro there was already a large delegation of city leaders from Venice. The document which has been produced, at least as much has been reported in the press) contains nothing but generic words and vague promises of commitment. Nor could it be otherwise given that every measure taken by the Brugnaro Administration has moved in the exact opposite direction of the UNESCO requests, declaring support for a new canal in the Lagoon for cruise ships, permitting the sale of housing for hotel use, and not imposing any limits on mass tourism, no measure against motor boat waves, no steps to limit the proliferation of apartments on short term rent, no concrete steps against stands and stores selling tourist junk, nothing to promote housing for residents. The transformation of Venice in to a mass tourist park continues and is being accelerated. At Paris Brugnaro will try to get by with remedial measures that are simple efforts with purely symbolic value: the statements of the committees on tourism (“we will explain the plans we have started, the consultation with associations and citizens” as was quoted in a local newspaper), are as if “a plan that is started” could signify something concrete.
We will see what the reaction of the UNESCO directors will be, and we will be ready to present to them and to the general public our comments about this “Management Plan for UNESCO site” as soon as it is revealed to Venice and the world.
Italia Nostra, Venice Section
Paolo Lanapoppi, Vice President
Venezia 19 January, 2017