Open Journal of Political Science
2013. Vol.3, No.4, 134-142
Published Online October 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ojps) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojps.2013.34019
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
Public Policy Making in the Coastal Zone of the Venice Lagoon:
Is There a Good Balance between Economic Development, the
Social Dimension and Environmental Protection?
Maria Sabrina De Gobbi*
University of London, London, UK
Email: sabrina. firstname.lastname@example.org
Received July 22nd, 2013; revised August 26th, 2013; accepted September 15th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Maria Sabrina De Gobbi. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Com-
mons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, pro-
vided the original work is p roperly cited.
This paper shows how much citizens’ views are taken into account in local policy decision-making con-
cerning the management of the coastal area of the Venice Lagoon. Through the application of a somewhat
innovative version of the contingent valuation method (CVM), it is possible to understand how to set a
good balance among economic development, the social dimension and environmental protection in a
coastal zone. The methodology allows for a clear assessment of the economic value of non-use values. In
2010, an online survey was conducted in the Venice area to find out how local much citizens value two
protected areas in the Venice Lagoon. Four hypotheses were tested to find out whether the age of respon-
dents, the municipality where they live, their income level, and the visited and protected sites are factors
determining a different willingness to pay for environmental protection. The economic, social and envi-
ronmental situation of the coastal zone of the Venice Lagoon in 2010 was then compared to that of 2012
to try to draw conclusions on the level of sustainability of the management of the Venice coastal area. The
comparison indicates that there have been some improvements in citizens’ participation in deci-
sion-making processes through political events.
Keywords: CVM; Lagoon; Sustainable Development; Tourism
The objective of this paper is to show how, through the ap-
plication of a somewhat innovative version of the contingent
valuation method (CVM), it is possible to understand how to
set a good balance among economic development, the social
dimension and environmental protection in a coastal zone. The
methodology is innovative that it allows for a clear assessment
of the economic value of both use and non-use environmental
values. The case of the Venice Lagoon is presented, not be-
cause it constitutes good practice, but rather shows a concrete
application of the method and how it can be used to try to
achieve sustainable development in the management of a
coastal area, including citizens’ participation in local policy
The research question that this paper addresses is:
How much do local citizens value protected areas in the
An online survey was conducted in the Venice area to answer
this question. Four hypotheses were tested to find out whether
the age of respondents, the municipality where they live, their
income level, and having visited the protected sites are factors
determining a different willingness to pay for environmental
The following sections of this chapter will provide some
background information on the social and economic develop-
ment of the Venice area, on the Venice Lagoon, and on pro-
tected areas. The methodology used and the results will be de-
scribed in specific chapters. An additional chapter will focus on
findings and compare them to the present situation to show to
what extent the Venice Lagoon is being managed in a sustain-
able way. Some g e n e ral remarks wil l c on c l u de the pap er .
Economic and Social Development
The Venice Lagoon is located within the territory of the Ve-
neto region. Veneto is one of the richest regions in Italy and
economically one of the fastest growing in Europe (Regione del
Veneto, 2009e). In 2006, Veneto was the region in the country
with the highest level of openness to trade and international
exchanges with a high volume of exports (Regione del Veneto,
2008a). In 2010, Veneto was the second region in Italy with the
highest volume of exports (Regione del Veneto, 2011). The
development of infrastructure plays a pivotal role in favouring
trade flows. The Port of Venice has historically been and con-
tinues to be a major agent for trade development in the region.
*The author is a research economist at the International Labour Organi-
zation. However, this paper is based on research work which the author
conducted when she was studying at the University of London. Neitherthe
ILO’s nor the University of London’s affiliations are to be used. In
particular, the views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility o
the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ILO. The economy of the Venice area traditionally and largely
M. S. DE GOBBI
depends on industry, including the chemical, metal and oil sec-
tors, as well as the production of ships and aircrafts (Ibid).
These sectors have been and are being negatively affected by
the unfavourable international economic situation of the past
few years which is causing widespread unemployment. The
only economic sector which has been consistently recording a
positive trend is tourism (Autorità Portuale di Venezia, 2011).
The most recent data (2009) indicate that Veneto has been
the first Italian region in terms of tourism flows for several
years (Regione del Veneto, 2011). The province of Venice
hosts the largest share of tourists, comprising 56 per cent of the
region’s tourists in 2009. In the same year, 54 per cent of newly
recruited employees in the Venice area found a job in this sec-
tor (Ibid). Over two million passengers visited Venice in 2010
with a 9.1 per cent increase compared to 2009. If only cruise
passengers are considered, that increase reaches 12.5 per cent
(Autorità Portuale di Venezia, 2011). The good economic per-
formance of tourism has made regional and local authorities
prioritize investments aimed at further boosting the develop-
ment of this sector1.
The Venice Lagoon
When Venice and its surrounding territories were an inde-
pendent republic up until the XVIII century, the lagoon was
considered as an invaluable common good because it secured
independence, protection from external attacks and prosperity.
Even well-justified private interests to use and exploit the la-
goon were strongly opposed in the name of public interests
(Comune di Venezia, 2009).
The Venice Lagoon comprises very heterogeneous, closely
interconnected and interacting habitats. It consi sts of open water-
bodies, river mouths, shallow waters, water-bodies of lower
salinity, and canals. A total of 79 species of fish and 300 spe-
cies of microalgae have been identified (Solidoro et al., 2010).
Eel-grass zostera and Ruppia cover the bottoms of the water-
bodies. Sea-lettuce Ulva and Enteromorpha, and cord-grass
Spartina are common in these areas (BirdLife International,
Flat islands which are often covered by water are typical and
fundamental for birds of many species, several of which are
endemic. These areas host some 100,000 wintering water birds
such as Fulica Atra and Calidris Alpina. Breeding herons and
post-breeding terns, such as Sterna albifrons and Chlidoniasni-
ger, record their largest populations in Europe in the Venice
Lagoon (Ambito Territoriale di Caccia Lagunare Venezia, 2009;
BirdLife International, 2009).
A priority plant species in need of protection according to the
EU Habitat Directive, Salicornia veneta, can be found in this
area (Regione del Veneto, 2009c). Two globally threatened
species are also present: pygmy cormorant or Phalacrocorax
pygmaeus, and redshank or Tringa totanus (Smart & Vinals,
Morphological changes due to sediment variations and sea
level rise, natural and anthropogenic subsidence, land reclama-
tion, and dredging of channels for industrial development de-
termine varying physical, chemical, biogeochemical, and bio-
logical conditions which favour or hinder the presence of dif-
ferent species in the Venice Lagoon (Solidoro et al., 2010). The
area of the Venice Lagoon is almost entirely covered by a
management plan and benefits from conservation measures
(Regione del Veneto, 2009f, g). It is nonetheless to be noted
that, although some management plans for sites which are pro-
tected under EU legislation have been prepared, they cannot be
implemented due to the poor organizational capacity of desig-
The main threats to the lagoon ecosystems are fish farming,
aquaculture, hunting, tourism by boat, coastal erosion, wastes
from agriculture, and industrial activities. A major industrial
area comprising chemical and oil activities was established
along the coastal zone in Porto Marghera causing significant
negative environmental impacts. New deep navigation channels
were dredged and part of the lagoon was modified for the dis-
charge of effluent water (casse di colmata) which caused heavy
pollution (Solidoro et al., 2010). In the 1960s, a reclamation
process began and the area was spontaneously colonised by
local species, including trees like poplars (Ambito Territoriale
di Caccia Lagunare Venezia, 2009; BirdLife International, 2009;
Regione del Veneto, 2009c).
In its Triennial Plan (Piano Triennale) 2008-2011, the Venice
Port Authority announced a considerable expansion of the ex-
isting Port of Venice in order to enhance economic develop-
ment and meet increasing national and international trade needs.
To meet the increasing demand for cruise ships services, in
2010 the Venice Port Authority envisaged the creation of a side
tourism harbour for cruise ships. One possibility was to estab-
lish such a harbour on the coastal area of the Mira Municipality
(Autorità Portuale di Venezia, 2008a, b).
The administration of the Mira municipality maintained a
rather ambiguous position with respect to this project (Regione
del Veneto, 2008d; Autorità Portuale di Venezia, 2008a, b, c;
Comune di Mira, 2010). To estimate how much local inhabi-
tants value their territory, a survey was conducted using a sam-
ple of 4307 citizens living in the Venice area. Obviously, if
local citizens do not much value their surrounding territory, the
idea of creating a new harbour to enhance economic activity in
the area cannot be considered as politically wrong, although
what makes political sense often results in environmental mis-
management and failure (Amizaga & Santamaría, 2000; Turner
et al., 2000).
Following the adoption of EU directives 1979/409/EC and
1992/43/EC, two types of protected areas have been established.
Based on the EC Habitat Directive, Veneto has set up 102 Sites
of Community Importance (SCIs) which contribute to the for-
mation of the Natura 2000 ecological network. For the imple-
mentation of the Wild Birds Directive, 67 Special Protection
Areas (SPAs) have been established along the migration paths
of wild birds. These two types of protected areas often overlap,
so that overall there are 128 protected sites for a total surface of
414.628 ha (Regione del Veneto, 2009b, d).
The presently protected areas are the result of institutional
tensions and conflicts which have pushed the Veneto regional
authorities to expand the size of those areas. The most recent
measure in this regard is an increase of SCIs and SPAs in the
Venice Lagoon following a 2003 decision of the EU Court of
Justice against Italy for the insufficient number and size of
protected areas (Ambito Territoriale di Caccia Lagunare
1For an overview of the negative impacts of infrastructure development,
tourism and cruise ships on coastal zones, see Davenport, J., Davenport, J.
L., 2006. The impact of tourism and personal leisure transport on coastal
environments: A review. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Sc ience, 67, 280-292.
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 135
M. S. DE GOBBI
Venezia, 2009; Regione del Veneto, 2009h).
The wetland Ramsar Convention is another international le-
gal instrument which is supposed to guide actions with an im-
pact on the environment in the areas under its protection. Sev-
eral attempts have been made by local authorities and the in-
ternational community to extend the coverage of the currently
existing Ramsar site to the entire Venice Lagoon, but presently
only the natural reserve Valle Averto with a surface of 500 ha is
a Ramsar site (Ramsar Convention, 2004; Smart & Viñals,
An additional element which is to be considered for the man-
agement of the Venice Lagoon is the fact that the “City of
Venice and its Lagoon” are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This means that the cultural values of wetlands, including the
participation of local communities for the conservation of their
cultural heritage, are to be taken into account for the effective
management of the area (Suman et al., 2005).
Interestingly, the proposed area where the new port (an ex-
tension of the Venice harbour) should have been created over-
laps with two protected areas: a Habitat Directive priority site
and a Wild Bird Directive Special Protection Area (Regione del
Veneto, 2008b, c). Presently, cruise ships have direct access to
the city of Venice, creating damage to old historical monuments
with high and frequent waves causing the erosion of buildings
(Smart & Viñals, 2004; Italia Nostra, 2010). This is why their
access to the city should be forbidden. But should protected
areas be negatively affected instead?
The research question which the present paper addresses is:
How much do local citizens value protected areas in the
An online survey is the main method which has been used to
collect data to answer the research question above. In particular,
the contingent valuation method (CVM) was applied to find out
how much local citizens in the Venice province value their
surrounding environment. This method is an “expressed pref-
erence technique” in that surveyed individuals are asked to
express a specific level of preference for a given environmental
change. In this case, it was possible to estimate willingness to
pay (WTP) of local citizens for a concrete proposed environ-
mental change consisting of the improvement of two protected
areas as opposed to the likely creation of a new cruise ship
harbour on the same site of the Venice Lagoon. Local expert
opinions and the views of technicians working in local admini-
strations at different levels helped to deepen and further de-
velop the technical arguments.
The technique used and described in Birol et al. (2006) to
value environmental changes in a Greek wetland served as a
guiding example. As in the Greek case, the question that sur-
veyed individuals were asked is “How much would you be
willing to pay for ...?” The amount expressed indicates the an-
nual tax level they would be willing to invest to maintain the
protected areas as they are and strengthen the management plan
through the recruitment of experts to monitor flora and fauna
and to improve ecological, educational and recreational ser-
Unlike Birol et al. (2006) who used an open-ended question,
a discrete choice format was adopted, as recommended by King
and Mazzotta (2000). A total of 10 values were proposed, from
0 to 150 Euros, among which respondents were asked to choose
The CVM has been chosen because it allows non-use values
to be measured in economic terms. Non-use values are becom-
ing increasingly important on a path towards sustainable devel-
Non-use values are difficult to measure (Pagiola et al., 2004;
DEFRA, 2007). To facilitate measurement, eight options cor-
responding to direct and indirect use values, as well as non-use
values were listed in the questionnaire. An additional option
could be specified by respondents to add any further value.
Respondents were asked to choose up to three options to justify
their payment or indicate their priority values. It was thus pos-
sible to attach a precise monetary value to each of the eight
values. This technique was inspired by—but not entirely based
on—the approach used by Barbier et al. (1997), Allen et al.
(2003), Brander et al. (2006), and Burton and Tiner (2009).
One last option, the tenth, indicated a lack of interest in the
protection of the sites.
The issue of double counting of values (DEFRA, 2007)
through the options in the list mentioned above was addressed
through a very simple description of each value. Those values
which may be difficult to explain, and for respondents to un-
derstand, such as “option values” as described in Birol et al.
(2006), were intentionally excluded. By so doing, what indi-
viduals are willing to pay should match specific environmental
values described in the proposed options.
A focus group discussion was conducted before launching
the survey. The focus group comprised 10 individuals from the
Venice area aged between 18 to 65, with different technical
backgrounds (e.g. environmental engineer, architect, ecologist,
etc.), and working in institutions such as local and regional
public authorities, private firms, NGOs and universities. No
major issue was raised and only minor changes were made to
the questionnaire. It became clear that the adoption of a discrete
choice format does not solve the problem of ‘protest bids’ from
those who do not accept any trade-off between money and the
The sampling frame is the population of the Venice province
who are of age and have access to online services. An informal
sampling method or a non-probability sampling approach has
been adopted. As a matter of fact, only those individuals living
in the Venice province who are of age, have access to a com-
puter and have voluntarily registered in an online database run
by the private firm which agreed to process the questionnaire
for the present report are part of the sample. Registration makes
it possible to obtain specific personal data necessary to properly
address the research question. In Italy, privacy legislation is
very strict and requires a formal agreement for the use of per-
sonal data. This approach has been chosen for convenience and
ethical reasons. Findings can be generalised to the entire popu-
lation of the Venice province in a limited way because of the
informal method used, and since the response rate is low.
Some 4307 individuals were registered at the moment when
the survey was launched. They all received invitations to fill in
the questionnaire via E-mail. Data on sex, age, occupation and
municipality /di stric t of indivi duals were al ready availa ble i n the
database. The questionnaire consisted of five questions and
included two photos of birds which served as flagship species
for the protected areas under discussion. Three maps were also
added to help respondents understand the situations described.
Four hypotheses were tested to find out whether the age of
respondents, the municipality where they live, their income
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
M. S. DE GOBBI
level, and having visited the protected sites are factors deter-
mining a different willingness to pay for environmental protec-
A major weakness of the method applied is that the survey
has not been conducted based on random sampling. However,
findings can still be considered as useful to shed some light on
local issues which deserve more attention and research. More-
over, the method can certainly be applied in other, similar
situations where larger samples are available and more reliable
results could be obtained.
Another limitation is the fact that the sample used includes
more men than women, which is reflected in the gender break-
down of responses.
As already mentioned, the CVM offers the advantage of
measuring non-use values in economic terms, but also has sev-
eral weaknesses. One is that it may provide some biased re-
sponses (King & Mazzotta, 2000) as can be observed in the
presentation of results in the following chapter.
The total number of responses received is 153, but only 127
were complete and could be used. Although low, this number
was deemed sufficient considering that Birol et al. (2006) con-
ducted their CVM analysis on 122 responses and Hanley and
Craig (1991) on 129.
Men comprise 74.8 per cent of the total, and average age is
35.2. Average WTP (mean) is 26.81 Euros. Twenty five re-
spondents opted for 0 and two did not care about the protected
Table 1 shows the total economic value that respondents on
average are willing to pay with a breakdown by environmental
A distinction is made between use values, which represent
the value individuals assign to environmental resources by us-
ing them, and non-use values, which correspond to the value
derived from environmental goods even without using them.
Respondent willingness to pay, by environmental value.
value as a
value (%) Value in
of use and
Direct use Recreation/
tourism 14.5 3.89
Direct use Fishing a nd
hunting 3.2 0.86
Indirect use Ecological
services 10.1 2.70
Indirect use Climate change
mitigation 6.6 1.77
Bequest va lue For future
visit 18.3 4,91
Altruistic val u e For other
people to visit 13.3 3.56
Existence valu e Cultural
heritage 17 4.56
intrinsic va lue Biodiversity
conservation 17 4.56
Total 100 26.81 26.81
Note: Classification of use and non-use values adapted from Birol et al. (2006).
Source: Survey data.
Use values can then be divided into direct use which is the con-
sumptive use of an environmental resource, and indirect use
which includes indirect benefits derived from an environmental
good such as ecological services. Non-use values include exis-
tence values which aim to preserve an environmental resource
not to be used in the present or future, bequest values for future
generations to use, and altruistic values for other people in the
same generation to use (adapted from Birol et al., 2006). Fig-
ure 1 shows the total economic value of environmental use and
non-use values based on survey data.
Three critical issues which emerged from the application of
the CVM include:
Strategic bias: A 22-year-old student offered 150 Euros.
The student may know she would not have to pay the tax,
but tried to influence the outcome and chose the option with
the maximum t ax l evel.
Protest bias: A respondent offered 0 Euros and added that
she already has too many taxes to pay, and those should
already include government actions for environmental
protection. Her protest is not against environmental protec-
tion as such.
Non-response bias: Those who answered the questionnaire
are likely to have different values than those who did not
respond. This problem was partly addressed through the
payment of a symbolic amount of money (contributing to a
telephone recharge) for completing the questionnaire3.
Of all respondents, 75.6 per cent had visited the sites, and
67.7 per cent had never heard of the Mira harbour project be-
In order to test the hypotheses, some considerations on the
distribution of WTP as a variable are necessary. As for many
economic variables, the distribution of “willingness to pay”
values is positively skewed, with the median (10) and the mode
(10) being less than the mean (26.81). A non-parametric test
was therefore used. Medians were compared instead of means
as would be the case if parametric statistics had been used.
The result of the test of the first hypothesis on whether there
is a difference in how citizens under or equal to 35 years of age
value environmental protection compared to citizens who are
over 35 is clear: there is no difference. Age seems to have no
impact on how individuals value environmental protection.
Those who live close to the lagoon value the two sites more
than those who live in internal areas and citizens with low-
income occupations value environmental protection less com-
pared to citizens with higher-income occupations. Moreover,
having visited the sites makes citizens value environmental
In skewed distributions, where there may be extreme values,
the median is preferred to the mean (Howell & Kent, 2008).
The data considered until now should therefore be revisited and
additional results presented.
Concerning willingness to pay in general, the median is 10
Euros, which is considerably less than the mean 26.81 Euros.
For the groups in the three hypotheses where a difference has
respondents from municipalities with access to the lagoon
are willing to pay 20 Euros compared to individuals from
internal municipalities who offer 10 Euros;
citizens with higher-income occupations are willing to pay
20 Euros as opposed to those with low-income occupations
2The two-samples Mann-Whitney U-test was used.
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 137
M. S. DE GOBBI
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
Rec reati on/tourism
Fi shing and hunti ng
Ecologi cal ser vices
mi ti gation
For futur e generati ons
to vis it
For other people to visit
Cultural her itage
Bi odiversi ty
Total economic value with distinction between use (blue) and non use (red)
values (%).Source: Survey data.
who are willing to offer 10 Euros; valuation for the entire Venice province desirable, although this
has been done in similar cases (Bateman et al., 1995; Hanley &
Craig, 1991). In the present paper, it is preferred to state that
respondents are willing to pay 10 - 15 Euros per capita to
keep/improve the two protected areas. Further research based
on a larger and possibly random sample is needed to confirm
this finding. It is however clear that local citizens do care about
the protection of their surrounding environment and are not
supportive of the idea of creating a new harbour where the two
protected areas are located.
respondents who have visited the sites are willing to pay 20
Euros, whereas those who have not offer 10 Euros.
It may be appropriate to apply the value in Euros of envi-
ronmental values presented in Table 1 to an amount reflecting
medians rather than the total mean (26.81 Euros). An amount of
10 - 15 Euros could be used instead.
How Much Do Local Citizens Value Protected Areas
in the Venice Lagoon? Findings from Preferred Use and Non-Use Values
The research question addressed in the present paper is
clearly answered. On average, local citizens are willing to pay
26.81 Euros through an annual tax to safeguard and improve
the protected areas of the Venice Lagoon. This result is in line
with findings presented in Birol et al. (2006) where Greek citi-
zens were willing to pay 22.3 Euros through a one-off tax for a
proposed change to keep/improve a wetland and 34.9 Euros for
a different modification concerning the same site.
In their CVM study, Birol et al. (2006) do not make any at-
tempt to interview visitors of the site, as their objective was to
measure non-use values only. Commenting on the survey by
Bateman et al. (1995), Barbier et al. (1997) regret that no clear
distinction between non-users and past users was made. In their
view, this aspect may hinder a correct valuation of non-use
The survey presented in the present paper tries to overcome
some of the limits of measuring non-use values. A clear distinc-
tion is made between visitors and non-visitors, and a precise
economic value is attributed to different specific use and non-
What similar applications of CVM (Bateman et al., 1995;
Birol et al., 2006; Hanley & Craig, 1991) do not consider is that,
since the distribution of the WTP variable is skewed, medians
should be preferred to means (Howell & Kent, 2008). The
amount obtained for citizens in the Venice area is much lower
and is equal to only 10 Euros. However, this is possibly a more
reliable figure for policy planning.
A striking result is that the first three preferred environ-
mental values are non-use values. These are respectively “for
future generations to visit the sites” (18.3 per cent), and “bio-
diversity conservation” and “cultural heritage,” both reaching a
share of 17 per cent of total preferences. As shown in Figure 1,
the total proportion of preferences for non-use values comprises
65.6 per cent of total economic values. Irrespective of age, local
citizens clearly value non-use values more than use ones.
The finding that citizens living closer to the protected area
are willing to pay more is in line with the results obtained by
Bateman et al. (1995), and the higher WTP of those who have
visited the site as opposed to non-visitors corresponds to find-
ings presented in Hanley and Craig (1991). The fact that higher
income determines a higher WTP for environmental protection
is clearly shown in Brander et al. (2006), where an increase of
10 per cent of per capita income corresponds to a 12 per cent
increase in the value attributed to wetland. The issue of higher
income resulting in higher WTP is often discussed in the inter-
national literature, particularly with regard to citizens in poor
countries as compared to populations in advanced economies
(Allen et al., 2003).
The first preferred use value comes fourth in order of prefer-
ences expressed. It is a direct use value (for tourism/recreation)
which represents 14.5 per cent total expressed preferences.
Considering that those who have visited the sites comprise a
large majority of respondents (75.6 per cent) and are willing to
pay more than non-users, the fact that non-use values are pre-
ferred to use ones is quite surprising, given that it is use values
and not non-use ones which are linked to the actual use and/or
consumption of the environmental asset at stake. This finding is
also counter-intuitive in light of the approach adopted by Birol
The limited number of responses and the informal sampling
method used do not make aggregate estimates of environmental
M. S. DE GOBBI
et al. (2006) and comments by Barbier et al. (1997) reported
These findings indicate that local citizens value sustainable
development much more than their policy makers. Taking as
reference the definition of sustainable development provided in
the 1987 UN Brundtland report, sustainable development meets
the needs of both present and future generations (Sands, 2003).
Local citizens would rather direct public investment towards
the safeguard of the environment for future generations, biodi-
versity conservation, the protection of their cultural heritage,
and for other people to visit the sites (65.6 per cent of prefer-
ences) than towards the creation of infrastructure for economic
It is to be noted that one aspect of the social component of
sustainable development is included both in the proposed envi-
ronmental improvement of the two protected areas and in the
creation of a new harbour, with the generation of employment
in both cases. This means that, with equal consideration for
employment, environmental protection is preferred to strictly
As described in section 1.2, infrastructure development and
tourism are two major threats to biodiversity. Rethinking de-
velopment in more sustainable terms ought to be a priority for
local and regional policy makers. Alternative economic activi-
ties with an equal employment effect, but more compatible with
environmental protection are to be sought. The implementation
of management plans for protected areas offers a viable oppor-
tunity in this regard.
Useful lessons can be learnt considering the recent experi-
ence of the Republic of Korea and its “Green New Deal” (Bar-
bier, 2010; Cheong Wa Dae, 2009; Korea.net News, 2009a, b),
as well as from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005).
In the Republic of Korea, in reaction to the devastating social
effects of the recent economic crisis, jobs have been created
through projects for the improvement of rivers in the country.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment presents ideas for jobs
in environmental improvements such as planting trees against
coastal erosion. Blanch (2008) offers other examples of eco-
nomic activities and jobs which are compatible with sustainable
development in Northern Australia. These examples include
culture-based tourism and payments for ecosystem services
such as carbon stewardship and nature conservation.
Findings on Awareness of Policy Decision-M ak i ng
The majority of respondents (67.7 per cent) were not aware
of the project to build a cruise ship harbour within the territory
of the Mira municipality. This finding indicates that pol-
icy-makers do not seek to adopt a participatory approach, and if
they do, they are rather unsuccessful.
Sadly, Borrelli et al. (2007) reveal that in Italy a law called
“Law Objective” has been adopted to allow top-down ap-
proaches ignoring citizens’ participation in decisions concern-
ing the approval of public works projects pursuing the final
objective of national interest. This law supersedes environ-
mental impact assessment legislation. Should the project of
building a cruise ship harbour in the Mira municipality be im-
plemented, such law could well be applied.
The case of Torcello, an island in the Venice Lagoon, can be
mentioned as evidence of what may happen when decisions are
made using a top-down approach with no public participation.
Public opposition to morphological and environmental inter-
ventions for the safeguard of the island led to the suspension
and redesign of operations. This caused delays and additional
costs (Giupponi & Rochier, 2001). Suman et al. (2005) report
that local authorities in the Venice area traditionally do not
apply a participatory approach.
Findings on Proximity to Protected Areas and on
Having Visited the Sites
The survey reveals that citizens who live closer to the Venice
Lagoon value protected areas more in monetary terms than
those who live further away in municipalities which are not
located along the coast. This result indicates that proximity is a
factor determining the level of engagement of stakeholders in
Survey results also reveal that those who have visited the
sites and are practically more familiar with them value the two
protected areas more than non-visitors. Familiarity with specific
sites can be linked to proximity and may even be an overlap-
These findings can be used and interpreted to understand
which groups of citizens and stakeholders are more suitable to
undertake measures for the safeguard of the two protected areas
of the Venice Lagoon.
Halpern et al. (2007) suggest that some threats to biodiver-
sity, such as climate change, are to be addressed from regional
to global scale, whereas other threats, such as coastal develop-
ment, require local to regional interventions.
Smart and Viñals (2004) identify the Venice province as a
key actor for the safeguard of the Venice Lagoon and its pro-
motion to a Ramsar site. The same authors describe the efforts
made by the province in the late 1990s and early 2000s in im-
plementing a participatory approach through the organisation of
a seminar, direct personal contacts, discussion groups, and a
public exhibition. Borrelli et al. (2007) explain that provinces
often develop effective communication networks with local
communities. Analysing how biodiversity conservation is dealt
with in the Lazio region, the same authors conclude that it is a
local issue which is to be addressed principally by municipali-
One final aspect which is to be taken into account in the
identification of groups of citizens who can play a relevant role
in environmental protection and in the implementation of
Natura 2000 is familiarity with the concerned sites. By creating
a linkage between those who are familiar with a protected area
and the importance attributed to cultural heritage as a non-use
value (17 per cent of all preferences expressed in the survey),
those who have a solid traditional knowledge of concerned
areas may represent a relevant stakeholder group for environ-
mental protection. In the case of the Venice Lagoon, the active
participation of such a group would result in the implementa-
tion of guiding principles for UNESCO World Heritage Sites
which urge the inclusion of cultural values of wetlands in the
effective management of a site.
Is the Management of the Coastal Zone of the Venice
Lagoon Becoming More Sustainable?
To try to draw some conclusions in this regard, the 2010
situation depicted through the presentation of findings in the
preceding chapters can be compared to the present (2012).
Since 2010, there have been some changes which make it im-
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 139
M. S. DE GOBBI
possible to conduct another survey based on the same questions.
Some relevant facts and observations will therefore be used to
compare the past and the present.
To sum up, in 2010 public authorities seemed to favour eco-
nomic development and employment creation through the ex-
pansion of cruise ship tourism over the safeguard of protected
areas. The participation of local citizens in decision-making
processes was very poor. Local citizens seemed to value their
surrounding environment and were ready to pay about 10 euros
in an annual tax for the protection of the coastal zone. In par-
ticular, they valued the assets they received from the past (cul-
tural heritage), would have liked to preserve it for future gen-
erations, and strongly supported biodiversity conservation. In
other words, local citizens wanted their surrounding environ-
ment to remain unchanged.
In 2012, the project of building a cruise ship harbour was
abandoned. This could be the result of the economic crisis
which led to a freeze of public investments, but it could also be
due to a change in the public administration after elections in
2010 (Boato, 2010).
In 2010 many official public documents explaining future
plans of the public administration on the coastal zone were
available, whereas in 2012 essentially no relevant official
document can be found. This could be again due to the difficult
economic situation and the general lack of public financial
resources to launch new projects for infrastructure development,
or to a more prudent approach towards the environment of the
new administration (Ibid). However, some non-official sources,
such as newspapers and NGOs, mention several ideas on the
development of port facilities in the Venice Lagoon which
would have a negative impact on protected areas, and which
seem to be under discussion (La Repubblica, 2012; Lanapoppi,
The terrible accident of the Costa Concordia cruise ship on
the coastal area of the Giglio Island (Italy) which occurred in
January 2012 initially generated discussions on the concrete
danger that cruise ships constitute for the Venice Lagoon. Al-
ternative paths for cruise ships out of Venice were being con-
sidered. Nonetheless, only a few months later, the positive eco-
nomic effects of tourism prevailed again, and nowadays cruise
ships keep having direct access to the Lagoon and the city of
Venice. A cruise ship accident on 6 May 2012, which by pure
chance did not have any major consequence, was barely re-
ported by the press and did not determine any change in the
usual way of doing business (Italia Nostra, 2012).
Compared to 2010, in 2012 environmental issues gained rele-
vance in public political discussions. In particular, the recent
political campaigns for local administrative elections (May
2012) were characterized by lively debates on the environment
(Michele Boato, personal communication, spring 2012).
Table 2 shows the weight that economic, social and envi-
ronmental aspects had in 2010 and currently have in the man-
agement of the coastal area of the Venice Lagoon. A positive
change can be observed in terms of citizens’ participation in de-
cision-making processes through political events.
The relevance of the survey presented in this paper lies in the
somewhat innovative CVM approach which has been adopted.
This methodology allows for the identification of the environ-
mental aspects that citizens value the most, and to design policy
Sustainable development and the management of the coastal zone of the
Economic development high high
Social dimension (citizens’ particip ation) low high
Environme ntal protection low low
measures reflecting their environmental preferences. The ap-
plication presented in this paper has a limited relevance due to
the low response rate of the survey, but nonetheless, it clearly
shows the benefits of the methodology.
An issue which is very important for regional authorities in
Veneto, especially after the recent financial crisis, is the crea-
tion of employment through the development of economic ac-
tivities. Additional research is needed on the potential employ-
ment generating effects of investments in environmental pro-
tection, as opposed to the currently planned investments in
infrastructure development and tourism. This concern is com-
mon in many coastal areas in the world and should therefore be
given more attention to through the allocation of resources for
research in this field.
I would like to extend sincere thanks to the manager of Eu-
rosms, Luigi De Gobbi, for allowing me to use the services of
his company to conduct the online survey free of charge. Sev-
eral technicians from different local administrations and NGO
representatives were very active in providing useful documents,
maps, information, and technical opinions. These include Gus-
tavo De Filippo, expert in environmental planning and environ-
mental impact assessment from the Venice Municipality, three
officials from the regional administration who wish to remain
anonymous, Piergiorgio Fassini, a sustainable hunter and
member of the Council of the Mira Municipality, Giuseppe
Cherubini, responsible for the hunting and fishing sector of the
Venice Province, Angelo Mancone from the environmental
NGO, Legambiente Veneto, and Michele Boato from Ecoisti-
tuto Italia. Special thanks are due to Emanuele Stival, Florence
Bonnet, Makiko Matsumoto, In-Kon Kim, Blaise Gauchat, and
David Gómez for their inputs at different stages of the research
work. Last but not least, I shall not forget to thank Michael
Warner of the University of London for supervising my re-
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