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Thirsty pastures Drought-affected Alps no longer need army help

cow on pasture

The army in operation on the Oberbaetruns Alp on August 3


The Swiss army has stopped its operation to transport – and airlift – water to livestock in summer alpine pastures, which were hard hit by the recent heatwave.

In a statement on Fridayexternal link, the defence ministry said that the army helicopters alone had brought around 1,346.6 tonnes of water to areas in western and eastern Switzerland since July 20.

The cantons of Vaud, Fribourg, Bern, St Gallen, Appenzell Inner Rhodes, Glarus and Lucerne were particularly affected by the “extraordinary drought” which resulted in many water sources and reservoirs drying up, the ministry said.

Switzerland has been experiencing the driest summer since records began. At the beginning of August, the government announced a range of temporary measures to ease the heatwave-related difficulties faced by many farmers across the country. This included reducing customs tariffs on imported roughage.

An agricultural scientist has also warned that farmers must adapt to the heat in future to survive. 

+Read more about this warning here

Helping hand

Water was transported by road whenever possible. Otherwise, Super Puma helicopters were in operation. “The aim was to give alpine farms enough water to ensure that they did not have to bring their livestock back down into the valley too early, and/or stop working on the Alp,” the statement explained.

Army helicopters also helped the fire service in the Verzasca Valleyexternal link in southern Switzerland – the Verzasca dam was famously used for a breathtaking stuntexternal link in a James Bond film – to bring a forest fire under control on August 5-6.

Reasons for stopping the transport on Thursday evening included the advent of rain, or the coming end of the Alpine summer season for farmers, the ministry said.

Defence Ministry/SDA-ATS/

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