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Austrian land being built on at an alarming rate

An average of 20 hectares of agricultural and green land is built on each day in Austria that's the equivalent surface of an average cultivated farm per day. Experts are asking for a change in the planning law and are calling for more cooperation between municipalities in construction projects.

The president of the agricultural chamber Gerhard Wlodlowski said recently that it is almost exclusively high-quality agricultural lands that end up as building projects.

Compared to European statistics, the building on agricultural land in Austria is higher than average. In the past 50 years, the agricultural land available fell by 300,000 hectares and meadowland went back 570,000 hectares the equivalent of a city the size of Salzburg. At the same time, the number of abandoned industries and commercial premises shot up. These could cover one third of the space needed each year.

Only a third of the mountain land in Austria is suitable as a settling place 15 percent of which is already used. Wlodowski said: "Everyday around 11 hectares of agricultural land is used for transport, industry, economy and housing. If one counts the recreational and mining areas, that is over 20 hectares a day."

The increasing building has negative impact on the environment and climate. Meadows and agricultural land are responsible for various functions, such as regulating the ecosystem. These are also the living space for animals and plants act as a protective measure in holding back or saving rain water. They take part in conserving biodiversity and storing carbon. Last but not least, they are a living and relaxation space for humans.

With every modification to the CO2-rich soils, the climate and the global warming is accelerated and the risks of storms increases. Chairman of the Austrian Hagel insurance company (Hagelversicherung) said the consumption of the land urgently needs to slow down.

Gerling Weber from the institute for spatial planning at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna (BOKU) asked on public radio that planning laws are changed. One should build sparingly, instead of always building on new meadowland. He said: "First of all, always look at what is available. And then, go for the meadowland. At the moment, it's the opposite."

He added that political motives often prevent efficient construction. He said: "The bigger the competition is between the communities, the more yielding they become with regards to the offering of such plots of land which absolutely does not conform with the ground sparing regulations."

President of the eco-social forum Stephan Pernkopf said: "Active space policies is not only important because of ecological factors." The growing urban sprawl leads to rising costs. Compact housing structures are, on the contrary, a great relief for budgets.

Environment minister Nikolaus Berlakovich (VP) doesn't believe the municipality policy is failing. There the belief that usage of ground should be slowed-down and planning laws are already being modified. He said: "There are already positive examples in all regions of planning projects whereby resources and energy consumption are reduced.

Berlakovich asks fore more cooperation between the communities to spare meadowland. He said: "the land must be worked on together, efficiently used in the housing for individuals but also in creating new economical zones."

Austrian Times





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