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Venice should keep tourists at bay to avoid self-destruction

Venice should keep tourists at bay to avoid self-destruction
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Venice called a state of emergency after the second-highest tide recorded on November 12 flooded its historic basilica and left many of its squares and alleyways inundated with water.

Venice called a state of emergency after the second-highest tide recorded on November 12 flooded its historic basilica and left many of its squares and alleyways inundated with water.

The exceptionally intense 'acqua alta' or high waters peaked at 187 metres as the flood alarm sounded across Italy's economic city of canals.

The exceptional flood could be blamed on climate change, but there is more to it than meets the eye. Venice is built on more than 100 small islands.

The canals and surrounding lagoon are tidal and salty and form part of natural marsh flood plain. The city grew because of its strategic location as a trading point between East and West.

However, the climate change impact, coupled with mass-market tourism, is straining the city's resources. Overcrowded walkways, congested canals and long queues to visitor attractions are the new normal.

There is another major environmental issue with the city. The land is marshy, and the city is slowly sinking. The buildings do not have proper foundations and they are gradually subsiding into the waters of the lagoon.

Tourists are urged to visit Venice 'now, before it is too late'. The greed of man finds no limits. Everyone wants to make as much before it is too late without even caring for the posterity.

The city has subsided about 120 mm in the 20th century due to natural processes and ground-water extraction, in addition to a sea level rise of about 110 mm at the same time.

The city and surrounding land could sink by about 30 mm relative to the sea in the next 20 years, if the current rate holds steady. Despite this knowledge being universal, those living in Venice did not stop inviting tourists.

Each year it is hosing at least 30 million visitors. Modern satellite technology has shown that water levels are rising in the lagoon, threatening to permanently submerge some areas of the city.

Some Venetians have migrated unable to face the uncertainties. And as their population dwindles, the mega-cruise ships spew tourists by the tens of thousands into its narrow streets and canals, dwarfing its port and endangering the environment of the city and its lagoon.

Underpopulated and over-touristed, Venice is not only close to losing its hallowed status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site but of entering the 'in-danger' list of war-ravaged ruins and dilapidated historical sites in poor countries.

The World Monument Fund had already placed Venice on its watch list due to the fact that its large scale cruising is pushing the city to an environmental tipping point and undermining quality of life for its citizens.

UNESCO is worried about the mass tourism which is irreversibly damaging and wreaking on the fragile lagoon ecosystem.

With each year about 1, 000 residents abandoning the city, it is not going to take a long time to remain a viable city.

Environmental groups have warned against construction of any barrier that would jeopardise the marine ecosystem beyond repair.

In the long run, the present plans are not going to work for Venice. For survival, Venice needs to push tourists out. The residents have to decide whether they need tourist's money or the city itself.

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