Venice investigates mystery of bright green Grand Canal

Littering tourists and polluting boats have long been turning Venice’s waterways murky, yet few can have expected to see a bright-green substance seeping through the Grand Canal.

Locals spotted the lurid colouring near to the Rialto Bridge at about 9.30am on Sunday. After reporting it to the police, authorities organised an emergency meeting to determine what happened. As they day went on they were still scratching their heads.

The liquid may have been introduced into the canal after somebody dropped a tracer chemical usually used to find water leaks, Michele Di Bari, head of the local prefecture, said. Social media users have claimed the colouring was created with a tracer known as fluorescein.

Others believe the effect was created by a natural substance. “In the city people are speaking about a Japanese algae,” Aldo Reato, president of Venice’s gondoliers association, told the newspaper Corriere del Veneto. “Whether or not someone dropped it into the canal we still don’t know.”

Arpa environmental protection agency officials inspected the canal in boats piloted by firefighters, the agency tweeted. They are due to analyse the properties of water collected by police.

“We have detected no dangerous situations for the health of the population,” Di Bari said of the preliminary findings.

About 5,000 tourists from 40 countries descended on Venice today to take part in the Vogalonga, a regatta in which participants row a 30km route starting from the San Marco basin. The regatta was launched in 1975 as a protest to the number of motorboats that were polluting Venice’s canals.

Commentators initially suggested that environmental activists had been behind the mysterious event. However, Ultima Generazione (Last Generation) has distanced itself from it. The climate activist group poured diluted vegetable carbon into the Trevi Fountain last weekend, turning it black.

Similarities between the mystery and another over 50 years ago led some to conclude an artist was responsible. During the Venice Biennale in 1968, the artist and ecologist Nicolás García Uriburu made Venice’s waters green by dropping fluorescein into its canals.

In 2020, when Venice was deserted by tourists during the Covid-19 lockdowns, the city’s cloudy waters turned crystal-clear, leading to a surge in reported sightings of fish and dolphins.

This article wah published by The Times

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