For a long time, the city of Venice, Italy, has suffered from the combined problems of flooding and sinking. On Monday, heavy winds pushed tides over the city's sea walls, flooding most areas.
The population of Venice also has been falling for years. At the same time, the number of visitors to the city continues to rise. Many Venetians are not happy about that. They do not want the city to become what some are calling a "Disneyland on water." Their biggest objection is to the huge cruise ships that stop at Saint Mark's Square.
For a long time, Venetians have called the cruise ships "monsters." They say the ships are ugly and that they block local sights. The ships also damage the bases of the city's historic buildings.
Last year, the interest group No Big Ships organized a vote on the cruise ships issue. 18,000 Venetians took part in the June vote. Almost 99 percent of them voted to bar cruise ships from the area.
Later that year, the Italian government announced it would ban huge ships from Saint Mark's Square, Grand Canal and other historic areas. The order is to take effect over several years.
The cruise industry is protesting the plan. It says it will hurt Venice, and Italy's, economy.
Cruise companies say they want to protect the places their ships visit. They say the business brings economic benefits to port cities.
Roberto Martinoli is the president of Cruise Lines International Association. He spoke to VOA News in Rome.
He said the cruise industry represents nearly three percent of Venice's economy. He said cruise ships are responsible for less than 10 percent of Venice's water traffic and less than five percent of visitors to the city.
The cruise industry has spent billions of dollars on environmental research and development projects, Martinoli added.
But, many in the city argue that the damage from cruise ships outweighs the economic benefit from tourist dollars.
At a demonstration earlier this year, Stefano Micheletti of the No Big Ships campaign shared opinions common to many Venetians.
Micheletti said large ships must stay out of the area to protect the ecosystem. He said they cause pollution that is ruining the historic city.
I'm Alice Bryant.
Sabina Castelfranco reported this story for VOA News. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Word in This Story
tide – n. the regular upward and downward movement of the level of the ocean
cruise – n. a journey on a boat or ship to many places as a vacation
monster – n. a strange or horrible imaginary creature
benefit – n. a good or helpful effect
tourist – n. a person who travels to a place for pleasure