Report: Switzerland lost 90% of its ponds within two centuries

Swiss ponds are responsible for retaining rains and prevent landslides. [Shutterstock]

Intensive agriculture has gradually dried the country’s ponds out, and soils are no longer able to handle violent rains, creating increased flooding and lethal mud slides. EURACTIV’s partner Ouest-France reports.

Within two centuries, Switzerland has lost 90% of its natural ponds, according to Eawag, the Swiss federal institute of aquatic science and technology. On Tuesday (5 September) Eawag and the universities of Zurich and Lausanne published an alarming study. “There are only 32,000 pools and ponds left. For biodiversity and flood protection, this is critical,” warns Swiss biologist Beat Oertli.

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The study did not go unnoticed in the Swiss press. In August, two devastating rock and mudslides took place in Val Bregaglia, near the border with Italy. Eight people disappeared. Frequent in the mountains, the sudden floods that caused them have become more and more violent in plains at lower altitudes. The Swiss scientists, who describe a much less “green” Switzerland than in the past, say the fault lies with “dried ponds, and underground streams”.

There is an urgent need to protect remaining ponds and “to create new ones whenever possible”, says Beert Oertli. These ponds with frogs “render an enormous service. They purify water from pesticides, they retain flooding, and they protect against erosion”.

Intensive agriculture is said to be responsible for “most of the damage” to the aquatic environment. Eva Reinhard, the deputy director of the Federal Office for Agriculture, promised a new agricultural policy for 2022. “We will take a pioneering role in terms of resource efficiency at the international level,” she announced.

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