Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Cleaning Venice

Porto Marghera, which shares its waters with Venice's canals, is due for a €72million clean-up campaign Porto Marghera, which shares its waters with Venice's canals, is due for a €72million clean-up campaign Mark Caunt
25 Mar
2017
After years of inaction, could the clean-up of the Venice lagoon finally be underway?

Unfortunately for the grandiose basilicas and romantic canals amid the 118 islands of Venice, Italy – described by UNESCO as ‘an extraordinary architectural masterpiece... one of the greatest capitals in the medieval world’ – they share their lagoon with Porto Marghera, roughly four miles away on the mainland.

This roughly 19 km2 industrial park, which includes various oil refineries and chemical plants, spent much of the last century using the lagoon as a way of disposing of waste products. In 1998, it was consequently added to a high priority list of siti d’interesse nazionale (sites of national interest) recognising the need to pay special attention to the environmental state of the park.

‘The list includes those sites in Italy where contamination levels or chemical, physical, or biological alterations of soil, subsoil, surface water or groundwater pose a risk for public health or for the natural or built environment,’ explains Ilda Mannino, scientific coordinator at Venice International University. As a result, traditional long-term Venetian concerns over a city that has been slowly sinking have been combined with fears of severe chemical water contamination in the iconic canals, as well as the negative effects on the ecological state of the lagoon.

After years of heel-dragging, an attempted clean-up is finally beginning, albeit slowly. €72million was recently allocated by environment minister Gian Luca Galletti to construct more than three kilometres of embankments to contain the polluted waters. However, it is widely acknowledged that this funding is insufficient. ‘The €72million is not for cleaning up Porto Marghera; that amount would not be enough,’ says Mannino.

Estimates say that a total of €250million would be necessary for finishing the containment works

Following the theoretical containing of the Porto Marghera site, attention could then potentially turn to cleaning up the 500 km2 Venice lagoon itself, a process which existing efforts have barely touched upon. ‘After the containment, the real remediation of the sites should start, for which a much higher amount of money will be needed,’ adds Mannino.

This was published in the April 2017 edition of Geographical magazine.

Related items

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Places

Conceived during the late 1800s, Letchworth Garden City was the…

Places

Multiple failed attempts to build on a patch of land…

Deserts

New 'deep learning' technology is helping to identify trees in…

Places

The land around the Kinabatangan River in the state of…

Places

Highlights from the column that keeps you connected with the…

Places

At the end of a perplexing and thought-provoking year, we…

Places

The city of Mosul is slowly putting itself back together…

Places

The story of a unique Italo-Slovenian community that came to…

Places

Bisecting Georgia's northwestern region, the Enguri River has come to…

Forests

A study in Northern Minnesota is experimentally heating the air…

Places

Some of the quirkiest geopolitical oddities are  Europe’s semi-independent microstates (SIMs). Vitali…

Places

Ninety years after depopulation, the Scottish islands of St Kilda…

Mapping

Not all passports are created equal

Forests

The impacts of deforestation are wide ranging. But while some…

Places

Community trekking is the latest development to emerge from the…

Cities

Scientists are using sophisticated data modelling to predict how cities…

Places

The most populated country of Central Asia, Uzbekistan has been…

Forests

To protect the forests that act as natural carbon reservoirs,…

Forests

Recent research finds that climate change-induced drought is having a…