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Alpine regions show potential but are at risk

The Greina plateau in canton Graubünden could be part of a new national park Keystone

Regions in the Swiss Alps could increase their development potential but some will not be able to survive without direct support continuing, according to a study.

This content was published on September 28, 2006 - 18:55

Researchers are therefore asking for open debate on whether some of the remoter areas should face up to inhabitants leaving them completely.

The findings come from a national research programme of the Swiss National Science Foundation entitled "Landscapes and Habitats of the Alps" published on Thursday.

The programme, which has been looking into how to exploit the potential of Alpine areas, aims to find out what revenues these areas can generate and what their future prospects are.

Researchers say the outlook is "very bleak" for regions that are remote from built-up areas and without competitive tourist attractions.

"There is not much hope for the fringe of the fringe."

They comment that the regions will remain heavily dependent on financial support from the rest of the country and without that aid, people will leave them.

The researchers argue that debate has to be "without taboos" among all those concerned.

Solidarity

"The importance of solidarity is, when all is said and done, a value judgement and a political decision."

According to the study, subsidies and other payments amount to an annual SFr3,300 ($2,644.30) per head of the population in alpine regions. Even with this support, their income is 21 per cent below that of the rest of the country.

But it finds there are opportunities in mountain regions in tourism, in the use of renewable energies and in a more intensive marketing of local products. It notes that a combination of natural resources and tourism services could lead to success.

New nature parks could also have a positive effect on the alpine regions if traditional uses were combined with new offers. Opportunities of development could also be increased by the use of regional labels.

But the authors of the study are sceptical about the chances for agriculture. They say that although farming can play an important contribution towards an attractive landscape, its potential for bringing in revenue is small.

And they feel that as a result of this, forests in alpine areas will continue to spread.

swissinfo with agencies

Landscapes and Habitats of the Alps

The national research programme aims to acquire the knowledge on goals needed for a socially desired, economically acceptable and politically feasible landscape development.

Requirements and standards for a sustainable landscape development should be analysed and possible approaches in the relevant political fields and scopes of actions should be elaborated.

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