Whereas rivers in France and Austria are generally clean, rivers in Switzerland have been given poor marks in a study by WWF Austria and conducted by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna.
No other alpine country uses its rivers as intensively as Switzerland, which has around 1,500 power plants and 150,000 artificial weirs, the environmental organisation reported on Monday. This has an effect on flora and fauna.
“Intact rivers, streams, wetlands and flood plains provide us with clean water and vital flood protection,” said Christopher Bonzi, head of WWF Switzerland’s water programme. “We can’t consider them only as energy providers.”
But in Switzerland, protection of the remaining natural waterways is less strict than in the European Union. WWF Switzerland criticised the fact that whereas the EU explicitly forbids deterioration of valuable bodies of water, Switzerland financially supports small hydropower projects.
According to the study, only one in ten rivers in the entire alpine region fulfils its role as an area for relaxation, a reservoir of drinking water and natural protection against flooding. Out of around 22,000km, 6,500km of rivers are dammed, diverted or forced into concrete beds.
The study looked at all rivers in Austria, Italy, Slovenia, France, Germany and Switzerland with a catchment area of more than ten square kilometres and their tributaries – a total of 57,000km.
WWF’s goal is to set up areas in these countries where the use of rivers for production of power and other infrastructure projects would be taboo.
swissinfo.ch and agencies