This week Giancarlo Mariani, the managing editor of the newspaper of GHI, looks at why two thirds of Geneva’s lake shores are inaccessible to the public when they have a legal right to access them.
At the beginning of October 2015, a project to list all private construction preventing shore access, was requested. The eventual aim is to force owners to take down anything that prevents public access.
“The current situation is shocking. To this day no action has been taken in Geneva.” said Romain de Sainte-Marie, of the socialist party in Geneva. “According to the law, the lake front belongs to the public. Regarding this thorny question, the canton has dragged its feet and shown proof of a lack of transparency for a number of decades. This cannot go on”.
Article 664 of the Swiss Civil Code says “In the absence of proof to the contrary, public waters, even those unsuitable for cultivation, rocks, scree, accumulations of snow, glaciers, and springs are not to be considered private property”.
To get past what Mr Sainte-Marie sees as a lack of political will, he brought a motion requesting Geneva’s Grand Council get started by compiling a list of private obstructions that prevent public access. “In Geneva two thirds of the shore is inaccessible to the public. No one has the right to commandeer public property”. “We also want a detailed report on all of the checks made by building inspectors related to the shoreline over the last five years” he added.
The ultimate objective is to force private land owners to remove obstructions at their own cost.
According to Victor von Wartburg, founder and president of the association Public Shorelines, “Lakes are part of our heritage and this heritage belongs to all residents. It’s a public asset. In Geneva and in the rest of Switzerland it is unacceptable that shorelines be privatised by selfish people who believe that everything is for sale. The shoreline is not for sale”.
The next step is to wait to see the result of the Grand Council’s discussion. The debate promises to be fiery.
Read full GHI article here – (in French)