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Newsletter Spring 2020
The last few months have seen the challenges facing Venice projected sharply onto the global stage: most recently in the form of Covid-19, preceded by major flooding, governance issues and over-tourism. We hope that Venice will soon return to occupying the collective mindset as a place of beauty and inspiration.

Until then, through our five action areas, we are fighting to improve the prospects for the city and make Venice a source of hope and showcase for innovation – rather than a demoralising example of modern system failure.

We hope this newsletter finds you safe and calm, wherever you may be and at whatever stage of the containment measures being implemented. These photographs by Eleonora Sovrani expose the eternal beauty of the city as well as the emptiness created by the absence of tourists and the remarkable reduction in residents in recent years. Some of the void is being slowly filled by nature, which is regenerating after spending too long amidst unmanaged polluting activities.


We were the only NGO taking part at the Cartagena Cruise Dialogue 2020, where we presented our research “The Venice Paradox” about the negative impacts of cruise ship tourism in Venice. We are now publishing an open-access handbook on our poster campaign against large cruise ships. It is designed as a guide for other community groups around the world.

Several other port cities are already using the handbook to create their own campaigns to build awareness and resistance to the damaging expansion of the cruise industry into the places we live and love.

With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we analysed the responsiveness of the cruise sector to the health risks, relative to profitability threats. Our findings are based on a study of a select few cruises that were set to affect the security of Venice.

We are frequently approached by journalists seeking reliable information and insight into the challenges facing Venice. November’s floods and the hard fought campaign around December’s referendum meant that Venice was never far from the headlines and we gave interviews to the BBC World ServiceCNNThe Times and CBC. We have been in touch with journalists from all over Europe, the Middle East, Canada, the US and the UK among many others, and our work was also featured by a range of specialist platforms like SkiftThe Verge and Politico.


Though ultimately the outcome of the referendum for dedicated administrations for Venice and the mainland was ambiguous and will not automatically trigger change, we now know that the residents of Venice (the historic city and islands) overwhelmingly support autonomy as the only way to address the real needs of the city and its residents, and that only by engaging with the international community will it ever be possible to protect the city’s future.

WahV is not affiliated with any political party or candidate, but will continue to support efforts to secure greater self-governance for Venice. The fight is by no means over, and we wholeheartedly thank the donors who generously supported our efforts to change territorial governance into the run-up to the referendum of the 1st of December 2019.


The severity of the floods was a distressing wake-up call, but also showed us that there is real support for Venice and we cannot rely on the MOSE flood defence system to protect the city. We are continuing our efforts to improve decision making and advocate for evidence-based approaches to this urgent global issue.

Our appeal for an internationally qualified and genuinely objective task force to review the engineering works already executed as well as the evident design and constructional weaknesses and possible adjustments to the overall plan has not yet been listened to. Paraphrasing Einstein, you can’t fix a problem with the same thinking that created it.

At the beginning of February, together with a long list of other local organisations, community groups and associations, we were compelled to renew our appeal to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to assign Venice and its Lagoon to the List of Sites in Danger. This followed our audience with the UNESCO Advisory Mission.


Last autumn our work concerning Venice’s poor air quality – a by-product of the campaign against giant cruise ships – led to our new project Energy Futures. We have been exploring the legislation surrounding hydrogen fuel technology as a solution for emissions-free mobility in the lagoon.

Meanwhile in collaboration with the glass company Laguna B and several universities, we are developing the possibility of restoring salt marsh in the Venetian lagoon to offset CO2 emissions. A multi-disciplinary workshop was jointly hosted by WahV and Laguna B at the end of January to more clearly define the scientific and economic potential in terms of carbon trading schemes.

We are also working with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection to give their interns an introduction to the context and living reality of Venice through a specially-created programme of events and workshops. This builds on our existing work with the British Council Fellows and many visiting schools and higher education institutions.

Our scheme to provide support to the Monuments Commission through an internship continues and we plan to expand the programme to specifically include heritage preservation in the context of climate change. Strangely no such position or department has yet been formally established in Venice.

Polpo restaurants in London chose We are here Venice as the charity to benefit from their Christmas fundraising campaign and raised over €11,000. We are hugely grateful to Polpo and their customers.

The new Hotel Palazzo Experimental will shortly be implementing a similar initiative in their fabulous cocktail bar and delicious restaurant on the Zattere in Venice.

As part of Imperial College’s programme to celebrate 70 years of humanities at a centre of excellence in science, engineering and medicine, alumnus Jane da Mosto was invited to give a talk on how art and science can change the future of Venice. The event has been postponed until the autumn due to the Covid-19 outbreak.


As for practically every going concern in Venice and beyond, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our short-term future is threatened by changes in flows of people and resources.

Members help cover our basic operating costs and bring extra insight into our work.

For sponsorship opportunities to fund specific project areas contact


To find out more about WahV’s projects and get a better picture of our day-to-day activity, follow us on InstagramFacebook and Twitter, where we post regular updates.

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