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Explained: How and why did Venice’s Grand Canal turn green?

Explained: How and why did Venice's Grand Canal turn green?

The water of the Grand Canal in Venice has been dyed fluorescent green, especially in the Rialto Bridge area. The causes of this colour are still not clear. Although the Italian newspaper ‘La Repubblica points out that it could be due to a dye that is used to find out where there are leaks and understand the path that the water follows. The environmental authorities are analyzing it.

The bright green stain appeared in the canal that connects Campo San Luca with the Grand Canal and little by little spread through the rest of the Venetian canals after the start of the Vogalonga, a regatta that has been held since 1974 and was born as a demonstration to protect the Italian city.

The Police reported in a note that “after the first investigations, carried out by the fire brigade, together with the local police of Venice and the regional agency for the prevention and protection of the environment of the Veneto region (ARPAV), the substance It seems to be a tracer, that is, a liquid that is injected in those circumstances in which a water leak occurs in order to know the path followed” and that is also used in speleology.

While the investigations continue, it has been ensured that the liquid is not toxic and there is no danger to the health of the inhabitants. The delegate of the Government of Venice, Michele de Bari, organized an emergency coordination meeting in order to determine the causes and the consequent measures to be adopted and, pending the evolution of events, it has been ordered to intensify surveillance in the area of the lagoon to “control any critical situation and prevent new similar episodes”.

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Gone Green

According to a spokesman for the local prefect, immediate action was taken in response to the appearance of green water in the Grand Canal in Venice. Water samples were collected, security camera footage reviewed and gondoliers and boat drivers were questioned for any suspicious sightings. An emergency meeting was called to investigate the cause of the unusual phenomenon. No environmental group has claimed responsibility so far.

The green substance was initially noticed around 9:30 a.m. CET (3:30 am ET) and gradually expanded, as seen in numerous images shared on social media. Gondolas, water taxis and water buses were seen plying the emerald water.

City councillor Andrea Pegoraro was quick to point the finger at environmental activists who recently attacked Italian cultural heritage sites. However, the Ultima Generazione group, responsible for pouring coal into Rome’s Trevi Fountain, denied any involvement in the green water incident when questioned by CNN.

The Italian Fire Brigade tweeted its assistance in providing samples and technical support to ARPA Veneto, the regional agency that monitors the environmental conditions of the Grand Canal. ARPA Veneto is carrying out analyses to determine the nature of the substance present in the water.

Various theories surfaced online, including suggestions of algae or an illicitly dispersed substance causing the discolouration.

What might have caused it?

Social media users drew parallels between the recent incident in Venice and a historic event involving Argentine artist Nicolás García Uriburu. In 1968, Uriburu performed a similar trick during the 34th Venice Biennale, where he dyed the waters of the Grand Canal green with a fluorescent dye.

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His intention was to raise awareness about ecological issues. Uriburu, who died in 2016, continued his activism by carrying out similar acts in other locations such as the East River in New York, the Seine River in Paris, and Buenos Aires between 1968 and 1970.

The Italian media have pointed out that this episode recalls the initiative of the Argentine artist Nicolás García Uriburu, who died in 2016 at the age of 79, who in 1968 had poured a fluorescent green liquid into the Grand Canal to protest against water pollution.

For the moment, no movement has claimed responsibility for this action and the environmental activists of the ‘Last generation’ have also denied their involvement, who in recent days threw black paint into the water of the Trevi Fountain in Rome and other buildings and works of art to protest against the lack of attention to climate change.

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