water wars

Wed, 2009-04-29 13:26Jeanne Roberts
Jeanne Roberts's picture

Glacial Melting Redraws Italian-Swiss Border, Hints at Future Water Wars

Once the shape of nations was guided by war, as losers ceded land to winners.

That is no longer true, and today Italy and Switzerland are negotiating a new border in the Alps to accommodate the world’s newest victor; global warming.

The territory in question is the Monte Rosa massif, a portion of the Italian-Swiss Alps whose watershed, determined by nine glaciers, sets the invisible line between Switzerland and Italy, as it has since 1861.

The biggest, manmade change to this imaginary line came in 1970, when a stream diversion was allowed to permit construction of the Lugano-Como motorway, with the two countries exchanging territory to facilitate development.

Now, thanks to climate change and the shrinking of these glaciers, the watershed has shifted – up to 100 meters in places – and the two nations are preparing yet another accord.

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