UNECSO Heritage Meeting in Venice: “There is no more time, there must be solutions or the city will die”

Meeting Friday at the University Iuav dedicated to the protection of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Borletti Buitoni: “The uncontrolled flows of tourists and cruise ships are killing the lagoon”

“There is no more time for the protection of the lagoon”: this the cry of alarm from Ilaria Borletti Buitoni, undersecretary of Mibact and UNESCO delegate, present Friday at the meeting organized by the University IUAV on the subject of the management of World Heritage sites. It is a fragile heritage over which looms, most of all in the lagoon, the danger related to an uncontrolled assault of tourists. “The phenomena that risk killing the city are two, cruise ships and the flow of tourists. And we do not have much time left to act – he explained – As regards the flows of tourists our minister has made himself available to work together with the City to identify strategies both near and long term. Regarding the cruise ships the government has instead signed a pact for the study of the viability of Tresse, but the project is not yet in front of the minister of the Environment”.

The meeting was called to consider the notion that the attribute “UNESCO world heritage” is not enough. Rather, it can bring risky consequences for places which bear the label. Often the label comes down to an attractive sign for tourists and risks functioning mostly as a tool for marketing, not sustained by an adequate system of measures for management and services: this was the central theme of the meeting held Friday at Palazzo Badoer, home of IUAV, in collaboration with the minister of Properties and cultural activities and of tourism.

There were many official warnings made by the World Heritage committee, the last directed at Venice, regarding the future of the sites: the critical issues concerned in particular the lack of management of the flow of tourists, and the pressure on infrastructure and buildings. How to resolve the problem? The guests of the day tried to answer. “The correct management of UNESCO sites should be guaranteed to ensure adequate protection and value of the heritage”, commented Borletti Buitoni. The undersecretary declared herself “enamored with Venice” and was the subject of a prolonged back and forth controversy with Mayor Luigi Brugnaro.  The first has declared support for a fixed number (of visitors) for the city, the second has lashed out against those “who frequent the salons”.

Between the two there is bad blood, and there are opposing visions of how to manage the city. Even if Borletti Buitoni has pointed out how the Mayor has understood that “he should not see UNESCO as an enemy but as an ally with whom he can seek to resolve the problems of Venice”. There was a representative of the City at the meeting. It was the Assessor of Environment and City Planning Massimiliano De Martin, who stressed that “Venice should remain alive in all its aspects”. “It is necessary to consolidate the strong points of the city such as hospitality – he continued – but at the same time develop new labor economies. On the tourism front a proposed solution is to move accommodations to the mainland, ensuring a more orderly and calm flow inside the city”. In a project for the revitalization of the city the accent was also placed on the environment: “Monitoring of the air and soil at Murano are fundamental to guarantee a safe context for the productive businesses and the inhabitants of the island, the revitalization of agriculture on the mainland, recycling, which has reached a 54.6% share, the thousands of hectares of parks in public lands – affirmed the Assessor – All are working for a future of sustainable growth”.

Performing the honors was the IUAV Rector, Alberto Ferlenga: “The exponential growth of tourism has endangered both single buildings and the entire city – he declared – so there is an argument to be made regarding the possibility, for example, as to whether the presence of visitors can coexist with that of the inhabitants”. Among the participants at the meeting was also Francesco Bandarin, vice-director general of UNESCO, who is often on the front line to represent to the international organization the problems which characterize the city, such as cruise ships. Also present, finally, were Maria Grazia Bellisario, director of the office Unesco MiBACT; Angela Barbanente of Politecnico di Bari e Anna Marson of the Università Iuav Venezia, authors of the only landscape plans approved in Italy: that of the Puglia region and that of the Tuscany region.

Source: Venezia Today, March 3, 2017

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