Venice will not be included on UNESCO World Heritage's danger list, a decision that has put preservationists and government officials at odds.
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee announced Thursday that the Italian canal city will not be included on its list after Italy banned large cruise ships from passing through its canals last month, the Associated Press reported.
Italian officials passed the cruise ship order last month in order to avoid the designation. As cruise ships began to return to St. Mark's Basin and the Giudecca Canal after a pandemic pause, their large size threatened the fragile city, which had been fairly quiet over the last year.
Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini welcomed the decision and said in a statement that the country would "work for the protection of the lagoon and identify a sustainable development path for this unique reality."
The World Heritage Committee is currently meeting in China and has asked Italy to submit an update on how the government will protect the city from other dangers like over-tourism and population decline, The AP reported. The proposal should be submitted by Dec. 2022 for consideration at a meeting in 2023.
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Critics of the decision say it is these factors that merit Venice's inclusion on the list of World Heritage Sites in danger. Venice reached a peak of 25 million individual visitors in 2019 while at the same time losing local residents at a rate of about 1,000 per year (the city's population is currently at 50,000). And the move to keep large cruise ships away is only a temporary measure and does not guarantee that their rerouting won't continue to impact the city.
"The persistent issues afflicting the precarious state of conservation of Venice and its lagoon has long been associated with a complex and ineffective governance framework," Stephan Doempke, chairman of World Heritage Watch, told the UNESCO committee, according to the AP. "It lacks a long-term vision and a strategy involving the local community."
UNESCO's World Heritage Center first recommended Venice's inclusion on the endangered list last month as a way to draw attention to the city's preservation. But a final inclusion on the list can signal the committee's distrust in the local management to maintain the site.