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Aircraft noise awakens residents’ wrath

Zurich's mayor, Elmar Ledergerber, took part in the demonstrations Keystone

Residents in Zurich are up in arms over an impending increase of planes flying over heavily populated parts of the city.

This content was published on July 8, 2003 - 08:17

Their anger is partly directed at Germany, which is to ban planes flying over parts of southern Germany on their way to Zurich airport.

Up to 10,000 people took to the streets on Saturday to protest the measures.

“Tens of thousands of people are affected,” Elmar Ledergerber, the mayor of Zurich told swissinfo.

Germany said it would impose the restrictions in October following the collapse of an accord between Switzerland and Berlin that would have cut the number of flights into Zurich from 150,000 to 100,000 per year.

The agreement was thrown out by the Swiss parliament, amid criticism that the deal gave too much away.

Organisers of Saturday’s march – one of the biggest public protests seen in recent years – say more than 100,000 residents are likely to suffer from noise pollution.

Germany has already introduced basic restrictions that affect some early-morning and weekend flights, forcing airlines to use Zurich airport’s eastern approach over the densely populated suburbs to the city’s north.

But residents are now bracing for the increased use of the airport’s southern runway, which requires aircraft to fly near the city centre and along the densely populated northern shore of Lake Zurich - an area euphemistically known as the “gold coast”.

Property prices

Experts said the current restrictions have already affected property prices, which could ultimately suffer by up to forty per cent in some areas.

The weekly Swiss business magazine, "Cash", recently estimated that the increased use of Zurich's southern runway would see the city's property lose between SFr1.1 billion and SFr8 billion ($0.8-5.8 billion) in value.

Reto Westermann, a co-author of the report, told swissinfo that the figure was based on already known losses of property prices under the existing northern and eastern approaches of Zurich, as well as on a 1995 court judgement concerning airport noise in Geneva.

"Many people will try to sell from now on because they want to move [before the noise gets worse]. And that will cause prices to fall," Westermann said.

Broad support

Ledergerber said Saturday’s march through Zurich sent a clear message that residents were furious at the federal government’s perceived failure to resolve the airport crisis with Germany.

“This is a huge demonstration for Zurich,” Ledergerber said.

“This dictate from Germany says we have to avoid all northern approaches during the early morning and evenings and on weekends. That means tens of thousands of people will be disturbed, and that is unacceptable.”

However, the Swiss transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, told the daily Zurich “Tages-Anzeiger” that criticism of the government was unfair and misguided.

“The transport accord, which was opposed by the same people who called for the protest march, would have prevented southern flights of this quantity,” Leuenberger told the newspaper.

“And above all, we would have had until 2005 to develop alternatives,” he added.

swissinfo, Jacob Greber in Zurich

In brief

Up to 10,000 people took to the streets on Saturday to protest increases in aircraft noise over Zurich.

Germany has imposed restrictions on the use of airspace over southern Germany.

Some early morning and late evening flights are affected.

In October further bans are due to be introduced.

The restrictions will force more aircraft to use Zurich airport's southern approach, over heavily populated areas of the city.

Protesters called on the government limit aircraft noise over residential areas.

Organisers of Saturday's march said more than 100,000 residents will be affected by increased aircraft noise.

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