Thousands of people took to the streets of Innsbruck, Austria on Friday to protest against the planned destruction of a glacier to connect the ski resorts of Pitztal Glacier and Ötztal Glacier in Tyrol, Austria.
Plans involve blasting and removing more than 750,000 cubic meters of snow, rock and ice from the mountainside to create new ski runs and services, reports the The telegraph of the day.
A petition with more than 168,000 signatures and printed on a 60-foot roll has been delivered to the state government of Tyrol.
“For just five additional ski runs, ski resort operators want to block three glaciers intact. In doing so, they destroy the unique natural landscape of the high mountains, already threatened by global warming. This is negligence and we want to prevent that.
– Gerd Estermann, petition organizer
Proponents of the plan have been trying to get its approval since 2019, while the Austrian Alpine Association, nature lovers and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) are demanding an immediate halt to development. At a 2019 press conference in Innsbruck, local alpine and nature conservation associations criticized the ecological myopia of the project plans. Animal species believed to be at risk include ibex, chamois, ptarmigan and black grouse, bearded vulture, golden eagle, mountain hare and marmot, the Telegraph adds.
The Pitztal-Ötztal Glacier Complex plans to level an area the size of 90 football pitches (64 hectares) on a wild and rugged glacier landscape to form ski slopes. For the construction of new buildings, two football fields (1.6 hectares) must be removed from the glacial ice. The mega-project has already begun, with bulldozers destroying an original glacier and high mountain landscape to create a new ski area for the benefit of mass tourism. Excavators dig into the ice of the glacier for snow groomers to distribute the snow to create slopes for the upcoming winter season.
“In the neighboring ski areas you can already see what the pristine glacier mountain threatens: a major annual construction site, where tourism works against nature instead of being with it. In addition to a courageous climate and environmental policy, we need effective glacier protection, which is implemented without exception.
– Josef Schrank, WWF expert
Today, only seven percent of Austria’s territory is largely natural and undeveloped. But the pressure of use and development on these last particularly precious alpine spaces is stronger than ever. For prestigious projects such as the Pitztal-Ötztal glacier, the precious landscape is destroyed forever.
“The installation of pristine glacial nature with energy-consuming infrastructure is emblematic of the failure of Austria’s climate and environmental policy: instead of looking holistically at the great challenges of our time – crisis climate change, biodiversity crisis and surface pollution – and at all levels there is negligent myopia on the part of decision makers.
The dredging and paving of a reservoir, the construction of buildings, cable cars, paths and slopes will inevitably mean the total loss of valuable alpine habitats. For the construction of the hill station, even a peak will be removed. Water drains for technical snowmaking, crossings and canalizations threaten to worsen the state of natural waters.
Without comprehensive climate protection measures and further increase in global warming, all glaciers in the Alps could be largely gone by 2100. Therefore, instead of new tourist infrastructure, more comprehensive protection of the Alpine regions is needed, write the associations.
“It is incomprehensible that such destruction is accepted. The glaciers are melting under our feet. At the same time, pristine waterways are used to clear snow from glacier ski areas, and reservoirs have been built.
– Robert Renzler, General Secretary of the Austrian Alpine Club
With nearly 3,000 cable cars and ski lifts, Austria ranks just behind France for ski infrastructure and ahead of the United States.