The Port Authority of Venice has presented the Italian government with a plan to develop a huge port for bulk carriers that environmental groups say will present an alarming threat to the lagoon and to Venice itself.
The Venice in Peril Fund, the British charity working for the conservation of the city, says the scheme to create a shipping, road and rail hub at Marghera on the inland shore of the lagoon will be an ecological catastrophe.
To make the proposed port viable, a channel from the Malamocco inlet will need to be continually deep-dredged. Existing deep channels have played a large part in the degradation of the lagoon environment and the chronic raising of the water level, according to the report, and this high water level is the greatest long-term threat to Venice.
The Port Authority of Vencie claims that: “…the problem of [the lagoon’s] hydraulic equilibrium is solved because it will be possible to manage it through judicious use of the MOSE system.” [of flood barriers under construction].
Director of the Cambridge University Coastal Research Department, Dr Tom Spencer, writes: “It is difficult to see how the implementation of the MOSE system legitimizes the deepening of the navigation channels in the Venice lagoon at the present time. MOSE is an extreme flood control system but the problems in the lagoon are related to the long term evolutionary tendency of the lagoon.”
Chairman of Venice in Peril, Anna Somers Cocks, said: “Venice is a World Heritage Site. This means that it is officially recognized, both by Unesco and the Italian government, as being of more than national importance. That is why it is our duty to draw attention to this plan so that its implications for Venice will be properly discussed in the international arena.”
The Venice Report’s findings:
- The big cruise ships are being encouraged to enter Venice. In 2000, it was 200 cruise ships; five years later the total was 510. These ships, some of them 16 decks high, will become even more frequent.
- A new and ingenious study of tourism by the COSES research group has made the first assessment of how many tourists the city can hold. A reliable estimate is vital, given the growth in the number of people entering the city. In 1951, 1.1 million travellers came to Venice; by 2007, the figure had risen to 16.5 million, of which 12.5 million were day-trippers.
- The officially registered resident population of Venice is 60,209, barely a third of 60 years ago. With its dwindling voter base representing only 20% of the whole municipality, which includes a large area of the mainland, the interests of the historic city sway the elections less than the interests of the terraferma.
- But the city is not “dying” for lack of inhabitants, as frequently stated; besides the official residents, it has 15,000 people living at least sporadically in second homes, and around 4,000 resident students.