UNESCO banks on young people to save Venice from sinking

Venice is on the brink of a watery tragedy. The enchanting city is sinking, on an average of 1-2 mm every year.

Built around 120 islands, overlapped by 177 winding canals, connected by 391 bridges, adorned with paved courtyards, tiny back streets, and medieval architecture… Venice is one of the most picturesque cities in the world. But, today, this enchanting city is awaiting a watery tragedy, it is sinking, on average, 1-2 millimeters per year.

In the worst-case scenario, the city could disappear beneath the waves by as early as 2100 even though flood-management programs like Mose (Experimental Electromechanical Module) which is in place since 2020. Venice, a UNESCO heritage site, attracts millions of tourists each year.

In November 2019, Venice suffered its second-worst flooding with tides reaching a peak height of 187cm above the sea level, resulting in more than 80% of the city being under water. A state of emergency was declared, and there was an estimated damage worth €1bn euros.

Young people can protect Venice

The worst ever flooding event, which happened in 1966, saw water levels rise to 6.4ft above sea level, and at least three quarters of the city’s buildings were damaged as per estimates.

Water levels started being officially recorded in 1923, they have reached 150cm or more on only 10 occasions, but five of those have been in the last three years. These trends suggest that, for another catastrophic flood, it may not require another half a century.

Now, as part of an initiative from UNESCO to save a fragile ecosystem, local children are being empowered with awareness to fight climate change. Programme coordinator Francesca Santoro has been quoted saying by a report that, “We want the children to learn to observe nature and the lagoon, to learn to understand it, to love it and learn how better protect it.”

Project part of UNESCO educational programme

The project is part of a world-wide UNESCO educational programme launched in 2019, sponsored by luxury fashion brand Prada. Named as ‘Sea Beyond,’ it is aimed at the preservation of the sea and involves school children across the world. The Venice project is supported by Georg Umgiesser, director of research at Venice’s ISMAR-CNR institute of marine science.

There are many cities across nations which are being similarly hit by Venice’s core problems of subsidence and rising sea levels like Jakarta, home to around 11 million people, and sinking 6.7 inches per year due to excessive pumping of ground water.

Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The Ne More »

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