Fire in the Alps: focus on water management in times of climate crisis

From Slovenia to Switzerland, the peaks of the Alps were lit up with fires on 14 August for this year’s “Fire in the Alps”. The aim of the initiative is to send a strong signal about the need to preserve the natural and cultural heritage of the Alpine region. This aligns with the goals of the Alpine Convention, and the Permanent Secretariat was honoured to be invited by the Austrian Infopoint Villach to the fire lit in the Dobratsch Nature Park.

On the evening of 14 August, in accordance with fire safety measures, fires blazed at high altitudes as a sign of solidarity between the Alpine countries and regions, and served to emphasise that environmental challenges do not stop at borders. Moreover, the fires drew attention to the uniqueness of the Alps and symbolised them as a unique region but one that is joined in many ways.

The focus of this year’s Fire in the Alps was water management in times of climate change. Climate change impacts the Alps – even more than its neighbouring regions, affecting the region’s water balance. Climate change is affecting the landscape and water bodies in the Alps, precipitation falls more often as rain and less as snow, heavy rains and drought periods are becoming more frequent. The snow also melts earlier, while increases in air temperature promote both glacier melt and evaporation. All of these factors influence the natural water reservoirs in the Alps, which many populations around Europe depend on.

The Fire in the Alps initiative was started in the 1990s, around the same time as the signing of the Alpine Convention. Raising awareness about the protection of the Alps is therefore a welcome initiative for the Convention, which has been leading the way for a sustainable life in the Alps for 30 years.

Especially in the past years, various strategies for climate change adaptation and sustainable water management have been adopted in the scope of the Alpine Convention. Their implementation, however, has to happen at all levels – national, regional, and local. The local level is especially important as awareness about the topic and understanding by the Alpine inhabitants is crucial. This is why events such as the Fire in the Alps have been, and continue to be, so important.

Our colleague Živa Novljan recently spoke to the Slovenian radio programme of ORF about the Fire in the Alps initiative and its importance in raising awareness of the unique Alpine environment. The full interview in Slovenian is available here.

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