The tourists know it, the locals know it, and the gondoliers certainly know it: Don't swim in the Venice canals. Venice's waterways may look pretty, but they are actually a sewage system for the Italian city. But in an unexpected silver lining to the new coronavirus, things are looking up for the fish and other marine animals who do swim in the canals. As a side effect of Venice's lockdown in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the usually-murky canals are looking crystal clear this week.
Members of the Facebook group Venezia Pulita, which translates to Clean Venice, have been sharing photos of the canals as they've cleared up. The Facebook group aims to promote sustainability and clean water in Venice.
One group member posted pictures and videos of the clear blueish-green water in the Rio dei Ferali canal near the Piazza San Marco. In the photo, numerous fish can clearly be seen underwaster. According to the member, the water there is typically murky, and the fish are barely visible. "Nature takes back its spaces," he wrote, according to Google Translate.
In another post, swans are seen peacefully floating in a canal near the island Burano in the Venetian Lagoon. "How beautiful it would it be, after the emergency and once we all returned safely, [we] remember the beauty we've seen reappear around the city these days," one group member commented on the photos. "It would be nice for people to start thinking about so many things and we all become more responsible and respectful to nature and our fellow people."
One Twitter user shared photos of fish swimming in the Venice Lagoon, along with a note from a friend who lives in Italy. "I don't think that there's a single Ventian or Italian alive that has ever seen it!" the note read.
A friend in Italy sent me this this morning.— Johanna Shapiro (@BsweetRT) March 16, 2020
“Another bright side... This is Venice lagoon... The water is clear, you can see the fishes. Amazing. I don't think that there's a single Ventian or italian alive that has ever seen it! 😍😍😍😍😍” #ItalyCoronavirus #COVIDー19 pic.twitter.com/6vcNyubu2k
So what exactly has accounted for this? "The water now looks clearer because there is less traffic on the canals, allowing the sediment to stay at the bottom," a spokesman for the Venice mayor's office told CNN. "It's because there is less boat traffic that usually brings sediment to the top of the water's surface."
Furthermore, as a Venetian architect explained to Italo Americano, most of the actual pollution in Venice's canals and lagoon is not because of that human waste, but because of chemicals that humans release into the waterways. The chemicals enter the waterways from a variety of products, ranging from industrial chemicals to pesticides to basic household cleaners and detergents.
That said, the air pollution has decreased in Venice amidst the coronavirus. "The air, however, is less polluted since there are less vaporetti and boat traffic than usual because of the restricted movement of residents," the spokesman also told CNN. Vaporetti are the Venetian public water buses.
Recently, the European Space Agency reported that nitrogen dioxide emissions have dropped over the northern Italy, which is where Venice is located.
Since March 9, the entire country of Italy has been on lockdown, according to The Verge. While Italians (and people from all over the world) deal with illness, quarantines, and social distancing, at least Venice's wildlife are being treated to a few moments of peace.