Greenpeace Criticises Regulation Of Construction Projects On Austrian Glaciers

Greenpeace research shows: The glaciers in Austria are unprotected. If a ski area applies for a new slope or a drag lift, the project is usually waved through by the authorities. Whether nature is being destroyed is usually not sufficiently examined. According to research, this was the case in 13 of a total of 14 construction projects submitted in the last six years. Together with biodiversity researcher Franz Essl, Greenpeace is calling on the federal states to expand glacier protection and completely ban new construction work on glaciers.

Greenpeace spokeswoman Ursula Bittner: “Glaciers are considered untouchable in Austria as long as no economic interest is involved. Both eyes are turned a blind eye to a new slope here and a snow-making system there.” Greenpeace has looked through all submitted construction projects since 2017 in the Federal Environment Agency's databases for which an environmental impact assessment (EIA) was involved. Of the 14 cases in total, an audit was only ordered once - and this project has now been withdrawn by the project applicant. All other projects were approved without taking nature into account. These include the mega construction site in Sölden uncovered by Greenpeace or the projects on the Kitzsteinhorn in Salzburg. Although there are various laws at the federal and state level that are intended to protect glaciers, various exceptions have been made. For example, to be able to expand ski areas. “The laws have been bent and are therefore ineffective,” says Bittner.

Another weak point in glacier protection: In the current federal law (EIA Ordinance), not the entire glacier is protected. The apron and the moraines, some of which consist of glacier ice, are excluded from the outset. Biodiversity researcher Franz Essl: “This is a fatal mistake. The apron and the moraines are not only a habitat for many endangered species. If excavation and blasting is carried out here, a natural protective shield against mudslides and rock falls is also destroyed.” The plants that grow here, such as various species of saxifrage, solidify the soil and bind water. However, more construction work is taking place in this glacier area. “Instead of just protecting parts of the glacier, the entire glacier area must be legally protected,” says Essl. Comprehensive glacier protection would have been included in the 2021 EIA amendment, but was deleted.

Greenpeace, together with Essl, is calling on the federal states to expand glacier protection and to protect aprons and moraines. For the environmental protection organization it is also clear: “Glacier protection must be credible in the future, without exception. Dredging and blasting work on glaciers must be banned. Instead, it must be ensured that ski areas away from the glaciers are preserved. This includes comprehensive climate protection, which winter tourism must also take note of,” says Bittner.

Share This Article