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Italy: 2005 World Ski Championships a risk to national park

Sep 25, 2003 / Francesco Pastorelli
Preparations for the World Ski Championships in the upper Valtellina in 2005 are in upheaval. The projects for the resort of Santa Caterina Valfurva, which is to stage the women's races, have come under attack. Environmental associations believe that as the Santa Caterina Valfurva skiing region is situated in the Stilfserjoch National Park the environmental impact of the projects should be examined particularly thoroughly.
In the spring and despite protests from environmentalists the administrators of the National Park approved the first forest clearances for the construction of a ski slope. Plans for the ski-lift facilities were then submitted in the summer. It emerged that the facilities would pose a threat to a peat moor, and so the Park refused approval. In response the Region of Lombardy petitioned for the Park to be placed under the control of a Commissioner.
Given that preparations are now well behind schedule, all these developments could be redundant. In all probability the facilities at Santa Caterina cannot be completed in time for the World Ski Championships. Therefore the races will all be held at Bormio, which is outside the National Park.
For years the organisations Legambiente and the WWF, together with Italy's representative of CIPRA (the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps), have been trying to achieve a change of course for the event. So far the International Ski Association (FIS), the Region of Lombardy and the Organising Committee have refused to meet for open discussions that would also take account of environmental protection aspects and socio-economic viewpoints.
In addition some of the projects are located in areas that are still unspoilt. One example is the Valle dell'Alpe, a valley at a very high altitude with unique geological formations and a significant white partridge population.