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Venice, with its maze of canals and historic buildings, will not be added to the list of endangered world heritage sites – yet.
At an ongoing meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to discuss world heritage sites, officials from 21 UNESCO member states decided Thursday not to add Venice, Italy, to the world heritage list in danger.
UNESCO released a report in July outlining the risks Venice faces, including extreme weather and sea level rise caused by human-induced climate change, excessive tourism and overdevelopment.
A spokesperson for UNESCO, the United Nations body that designates and protects world heritage sites, did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment on why Venice, a world heritage site since 1987, remains off the endangered species list.
UNESCO’s official statement regarding the decision reiterated consideration of concerns “for the proper conservation of the site”, which include tourism, development projects and climate change. “The protection of this world heritage site must remain a priority for the entire international community,” UNESCO said.
UNESCO added that it plans to send a delegation to Venice and submit a new report on the problems facing the city by February next year, with a view to discussing its inscription again. the list of world heritage in danger next summer.
Adam Markham, deputy director for climate and energy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and an expert on the link between climate change and cultural heritage, expressed frustration with the decision.
“The countries that made the decision said, ‘Okay, let’s give them a little more time. They’re doing a good job. “I don’t think that’s the case,” Markham said. “They need a boost now to act faster, bigger and do more. Otherwise, Venice is really going to be strangled to death by climate change and tourism.”
There are currently 54 sites on the list of World Heritage in Danger. New additions to the list in 2023 so far include the Rachid Karami International Fair in Tripoli in Lebanon, the historic center of Odessa in Ukraine and the monuments of the ancient kingdom of Saba, Marib in Yemen. Discussions on additional sites continue this week.
UNESCO on Tuesday explained the reason for its decision to remove a site – the tombs of the Buganda kings in Kasubi, Uganda – from the List of World Heritage in Danger, where it was inscribed in 2010 following a fire devastating and has since undergone reconstruction.
“This reconstruction program was completed in the summer of 2023, allowing the site to reach the desired state of conservation,” said the UNESCO press release. “The reconstruction was successfully implemented.”