Venice protests see hundreds take to water in objection to cruise ships and motorised boats

Critics say waves created by large boats are eroding city’s foundations

Samuel Lovett
Sunday 19 January 2020 17:52 GMT
Highest tide for 50 years leaves Venice flooded

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the waters in front of St Mark’s Square in Venice on Sunday to protest the use of motor boats in and around the lagoon city.

Forming a flotilla of small, traditional rowing boats, protestors urged authorities to take action against Venice’s crowded waterways while taking aim at the giant cruise ships that regularly sail close to the city.

Critics say waves created by cruise ships and other large, motorised boats on the canal are eroding the foundations of the city, which regularly suffers from flooding.

“Stop the waves, stop the smog,” said one banner. “Shame on those making waves,” read another in Venetian dialect. “Look out for the waves, they are drowning us,” said a third.

Beloved around the world for its canals, historic architecture and art, Venice suffered a record string of floods in November, which left much of the city underwater and threatened the famed St Mark’s Basilica.

The high tides were blamed on climate change, but protesters say local authorities could be doing much more to protect the fragile city by banning big boats.

Last year, the Italian minister for transport, Danilo Toninelli, announced ships would be rerouted away from the centre of Venice to ports such as the outlying Fusina and Lombardia terminals. Both these terminals are still within the Venetian lagoon.

In the wake of the November floods, thousands came out in force to vent their anger at the city’s officials and demand the resignation of Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro.

Rowing and sailing boats sail along the St Mark’s basin as Venetians protest against the damage caused by waves created by large motorboats (AP)

Calls were also made to scrap Mose, a multi-billion euro flood barrier project designed to protect Venice against “acqua alta” (high water) events, that has been persistently delayed and dogged by overspending and corruption scandals since it began in 2003.

Additional reporting by agencies

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