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Swiss countryside threatened by urbanisation

The Swiss countryside is diminishing by around 16,000 hectares a year

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss countryside is continuing to lose ground to urbanisation, according to a new study. Over a quarter century, an area the size of Lake Geneva was swallowed up by suburbs, roads and other infrastructure.

Every second four square metres of Swiss land is lost to development, according to a new study by the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape.

The study, one of the most ambitious of its kind, assessed the impact of urbanisation on the Swiss countryside between 1972 and 1995. The findings show that an area the size of Lake Geneva was lost to construction during that period.

Since then, the pace of urbanisation has slowed, and today the countryside loses some 1,600 hectares every year. That compares 12,000 hectares per year between 1984 and 1995, according to a previous study.

One area of particular concern, highlighted by the new study, was the effect of urbanisation on fruit orchards. In the decade to 1995, 134,000 fruit trees were destroyed, with only 34,000 new ones being planted.

The trees provide a habitat for several animal species, which risk being eradicated.

Significantly, hedges were found to have increased substantially, with some 190 kilometres being planted annually, in comparison with 35 kilometres per year that are destroyed to make way for new developments.

The study concludes that Switzerland is heading in the right direction with regard to urbanisation, but warns that action is needed to preserve the country's natural resources and landscape.

swissinfo with agencies


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