Protesters in Venice took to the water again this week, demonstrating their disapproval of the motor boats clogging their city. 

Venetians in kayaks protest against cruise ships after accidenton June 08, 2019 in Venice, Italy. Following the incident of the cruise ship Opera, of the company MSC, which occurred on 02 June 2019, the No Big Ships committee organized a protest march in Venice asking for the passage of large ships near San Marco to be banned.
Several cruise ship incidents and accidents sparked Venetian protests last summer © Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images

According to a recent Reuters report, a small flotilla of traditional rowing boats containing hundreds of people filled St. Mark’s Basin on 19 January, decrying the cruise ships and large motorised boats making waves throughout the city’s waterways. 

“‘Stop the waves, stop the smog,’ said one banner flapping in the wind,” wrote Crispian Balmer for the wire service. “‘Shame on those making waves,’ read another in Venetian dialect. ‘Look out for the waves, they are drowning us,’ said a third.”

The lagoon city has been grappling with the problems of overtourism and climate change for quite some time now. In 2018, officials performed a short-lived experiment with turnstile checkpoints at Piazzale Roma, and last year, they announced their intention to establish an entry fee for day-trippers, slated for roll-out July 2020. 

City officials first floated a plan to restrict the number of cruise ships allowed in 2017, with roll-out scheduled for 2021. Then last summer saw several cruise-ship crashes and near-misses, which led to vehement protests that are echoed in the action undertaken by demonstrators this week. 

A gondola travels under the crowded Ponte della Paglia bridge in Venice.
Protesters in Venice are looking to reclaim their waterways from cruise ships and large motor boats © Apexphotos/Getty Images

In January 2019, Venice announced that day-trippers would be charged an entry fee, then pushed the start date back to January 2020 when operators about complained about implementation.

And then in the autumn, the mayor declared a state of emergency when storms submerged the city under its highest tide in more than 50 years. “Venice routinely floods several times a year, but in recent years the phenomenon, known as acqua alta (high water) has worsened as sea levels rise,” Lonely Planet News reported in November. “The city is building system of movable barriers to ease the effect of high tides, but the project has been hit by scandals and delays and has yet to be completed.”

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