Boats in Venice
Boats of all descriptions ferry passengers, goods, and replace fire engines and police cars on all the canals traversing the city of Venice. Recent heavy digging of the canals to allow for the entrance of large Cruise Ships has taken place. Consequently, the Venetian Lagoon is experiencing large increases in the amount of water entering and exiting during high tides. This is compounded by the ever increasing sizes of cruise ships. Some of the largest carrying up to 9000 passengers. In addition, the docking piers for the cruise-ships are situated inside the Lagoon itself. On top of this, the cruise ships visit Venice hundreds of times a year. Therefore Venice’s port has seen an astronomical increase in the number of passengers embarking and disembarking. Thus it is no surprise that the frequency of ships and their sheer size has had an impact on water levels. Which has ultimately lead to erosion in the City itself.
The Effect of Rising Waters in Venice
The direct and most obvious effect on the city is the increase in number and intensity of High Waters, or Acque Alte. These waters partially flood the city. The British magazine Geographical reports that the lagoon bed itself has sunk by 9 inches over the past century. One of the reasons being that the mainland industries pump freshwater from the water table beneath the lagoon. So the threat of serious flooding has not abated. Added to this is the fact that climate changes also seem to have caused rising sea levels near and within the lagoon. The frequency of tides over 110 centimeters has doubled each decade. But despite this, Venetians cope with the high waters. So they solve their problems by stacking planks on top of structures that look like sturdy metal tables in Venice’s streets. So that when tidal surges send water over the streets, the planks are laid to create elevated walkways. Using this solution allows pedestrian traffic to continue to move, albeit at a slower pace.
Recent Experience in Venice
The owner of the home where I stayed the last time I was in Venice said to me, “make sure you’re back by nine, otherwise you’ll get wet feet”. Early in the morning I witnesses the locals brushing away the water from inside the ground-floor rooms of their homes. This constant threat of flooding combined with a declining population, floods of tourists, water pollution and congestion makes for an unhappy mix. This combined with the fractured nature of local authorities makes it difficult to address these problems.
Venice is such a magical place it would be so sad to see it slowly deteriorate beyond the point of being able to be saved. Tourist dollars seem to be incredibly indiscriminate. Recently the local authorities decided that a measure should be put in place to try to alleviate some of these issues. And therefore a small charge for entering the World Heritage site of around $11.50 is to be implemented. This fee will be used to meet the costs of cleaning and maintaining the city.
Below is a series of dry point etches of one of the small local boats that the residents use to move around the City. On the right hand side of the print, traditional gondolas can be seen moored along side the canal. The Gondola, was for centuries, the major means of transportation and the most common watercraft within the City. Perhaps we need to see a return of a similar style boating experience. The pedal boat springs to mind! I often see pedal boats on the Canals in Amsterdam.