Storm devastation brings environmental risks
In the second in a series of audio reports, Theo Leggett looks at the environmental impact of Hurricane Lothar, which swept through Switzerland in the last week of December, killing at least 14 people and destroying vast areas of forest.
In the second in series of audio reports, Theo Leggett looks at the environmental impact of Hurricane Lothar, which swept through Switzerland in the last week of December, killing at least 14 people and destroying vast areas of forest, which had taken years to cultivate.
In the weeks since the storm, much of the damage has been repaired, but its effects on the environment will be visible for years to come.
In this report, we speak to the forestry authorities in canton Nidwalden. Their priority is to minimise the damage in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Streams and ditches throughout the mountains are clogged with wood and stones and need to be cleared before the spring floods.
One effect of the storm was that it decimated forests, which had been cultivated specifically to protect vulnerable areas from avalanches. But the World Wide Fund for Nature tells us that this situation is not as bad as it seems because the fallen trees have become natural barriers to avalanches.
The question now is what to do with those fallen trees. Some argue that, unless they are removed, they will be an epidemic of wood parasites.
But environment lobbies are opposed to too much interference by man. They say the trees should be allowed to decompose naturally. They also point out that clearing forests is very dangerous – two people have already died in Switzerland during the clean-up operation.
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