An ecologist has criticised the ongoing sealing of soils in Austria and called for a “general planning concept” to protect local ecosystems.
Soil sealing is predominantly associated with building work and construction projects where natural areas are covered over by man-made substances like concrete, metal and tarmac.
The European Union’s European Environment Agency (EEA) recently warned that “soil sealing often affects fertile agricultural land, puts biodiversity at risk, increases the risk of flooding and water scarcity and contributes to global warming.”
According to EEA research, the total surface area of cities in the EU has increased by 78 per cent since the mid-1950s. It warned that these developments were “greatly contributing” to the harmful effects of the sealing of land.
Dominik Linhard is a biologist at the Austrian environment NGO Global 2000.
He told NewsX: “Austria is taking a leading position when it comes to the sealing of soils. The politicians in charge are currently incapable of reaching the targets they have set themselves.”
According to Dominik, around 12 hectares of land – which is the equivalent of 17 football pitches – are sealed across the country each day.
He explained: “The government aimed at lowering this rate to 2,5 hectares, so it’s miles off the mark in this regard.”
The environmental campaigner also called for a refocus on unused city-centre estates. There have been enormous suburban construction projects all over Austria in the past few decades.
Dominik told NewsX: “Instead of setting up another supermarket at suburban roundabouts, we should revive our town centres. There has to be a general planning concept to slow down and eventually stop what is happening right now.”
A scientific examination commissioned by the federal agriculture ministry recently revealed that 1,580 square kilometres of Austrian soil had been sealed during the past three decades.
This figure equals four times the size of Vienna, the 1.9-million-resident capital of the country.
The 200-page study also shows that several insect species which prefer mild temperatures came to Austria while some of those in favour of cooler conditions moved northwards.
The conservative People’s Party Minister for Agriculture, Norbert Totschnig, has been harshly criticised for claiming that agricultural activities were generally good for insects.