As a city built upon many islands within a lagoon, Venice has witnessed a lot of changes since its founding in the fifth century AD.
Located in northeastern Italy, Venice has evolved from its origin as settlements, to becoming a major republic, a busy port city, and popular tourism destination. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site in recognition of its architectural and artistic legacy.
While Venice is definitely a destination to behold, this “City of Water” has been facing problems that can have long-standing consequences.
Along with issues relating to mass tourism and a decline in its residential population, Venice is continuously subject to the threat of rising waters and resulting flooding. The latter impact is being driven by factors such as rising sea levels from climate change and equally-impacted natural causes.
The old adage that Venice is sinking, due to the city being positioned above shifting tectonic plates, is true. Another concern points to a seasonal period that Venice undergoes, known as “acqua alta.”
Translated in English as “high water,” this weather-related phenomenon is caused by the combination of a high tide from the neighboring Adriatic sea, a storm, and sirocco winds propelling heavy water into the Venetian lagoon. Acqua alta usually occurs in the fall.
Acqua alta causes flooding to develop in Venice in low level areas such as around St. Mark’s Square, or Piazza San Marco.
In response to acqua alta, planks are placed down for people to walk over to get out of the water. Or, if possible, they try to obtain boots to wear. Sirens are also activated as a public alert system.
In November 2019, Venice experienced severe flooding with a tide that rose more than six feet. It was reported to be the highest level of its kind in fifty years. The flooding was said to have impacted more than eighty percent of the city and caused saltwater-related damage inside St. Mark’s Basilica.
While acqua alta is an act of nature, man made causes have also changed the environment surrounding Venice.
Overall, the Venetian lagoon is a vast ecosystem in the Mediterranean. According to a Nature scientific reports article, the lagoon’s inhabitants have modified its natural surroundings overtime for various needs and development ranging from developing storm protection barriers to reclaiming land for commercial usage.
For example, in the 1960s, there was the dredging of a deep canal on the lagoon’s sea floor in order to accommodate oil tankers.
The Nature article also reported that the lagoon has experienced a substantial loss of sediment and land over decades.
Another public concern for Venice is the impact of mass tourism, in which media articles have reported on crowd strain. Tourism ceased in 2020 due to the global coronavirus pandemic shutting down travel, which resulted in Venice’s canal waters being clearer than reported to have been for a long time.
A potential engineering solution is getting closer to completion, but its effectiveness is being debated due to its lengthy development and increasing risk of rising sea levels. The MOSE project (which stands for “Experimental Electromechanical Module”) consists of a series of mobile barriers placed at the lagoon inlets of Lido, Malamocco and Chioggia to safeguard Venice from high tides. Lido will receive a total of 21 gates, while Malamocco will hold 19 and Chioggia will possess 18.
Initially designed during the 1980s and approved by the Italian government in 2003, MOSE had its first test run in July 2020, a year after the severe flooding in Venice. Along with the slowness of its progression, the project has been subject to criticism due to going over budget and corruption. Its projected completion is said to happen in late 2021.
Another point of concern has to do with cruise ships that dock in Venice. In spring 2021, the Italian government voted to ban cruise ships and large commercial vessels from entering Venice’s historic port and called for a new cruise port to be constructed. The results of these measures are yet to be seen.
Yet, Venice is still a destination to learn much about, which can be done right from your screen at home. Beeyonder offers multiple engaging and sustainable options to discover more about Venice:
Iconic Venice takes you on a virtual stroll over the Rialto Bridge and into the neighborhood of the same name.
Venice’s Jewish Quarter experience explores the city’s rich heritage on a tour through the lively Cannaregio neighborhood. During the 16th century, this area became the world’s first Jewish ghetto.
Travel the world virtually with 350+ live and interactive, group and private experiences in over 50 countries. See more at beeyonder.com