Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Melting snow prompts border change between Switzerland and Italy

The Independent (UK): Global warming is dissolving the Alpine glaciers so rapidly that Italy and Switzerland have decided they must re-draw their national borders to take account of the new realities. The border has been fixed since 1861, when Italy became a unified state. But for the past century the surface area of the “cryosphere”, the zone of glaciers, permanent snow cover and permafrost, has been shrinking steadily, with dramatic acceleration in the past five years. This is the area over which the national frontier passes and the two countries have now agreed to have their experts sit down together and hash out where it ought to run now.

Daniel Gutknecht, responsible for the co-ordination of national borders at Switzerland’s Office of Topography, said “the border is moving because of the warmer climate”, among other reasons. In Italy, the change in frontier requires that parliament approve a new law before it can happen. Franco Narducci, an opposition member of the foreign affairs committee, is preparing the bill to be put to MPs. The draft law has already been endorsed by the Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, and is expected to become law before the end of next month. In Switzerland no new law is required to make the changes.

The zones affected include areas around the Matterhorn, the 4,478-metre-high mountain known in Italy as il Cervino. The frontier will have to be shifted between a few metres and a hundred metres, but there will be no impact on border communities as the frontier, which is more than 4,000 metres above sea level, is well above any human habitation…..

The Matterhorn reflected in the Riffelsee, shot by Dirk Beyer, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License

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