The peak tourist season has slalomed into controversy at Alpine ski resorts, particularly those in spick-and-span Switzerland. The annual deluge of millions of tourists to the Alps is giving both environmentalists and national authorities headaches. Alpine forests, they say, are declining at a frightening pace due to pollution and tree felling. The problem has snowballed with the introduction of -- and this is the irony in this snowy expanse -- snow-making machines. These giant gizmos are veritable water guzzlers, tapping so much water from mountain rivers that they disrupt supplies to downstream users.
"The current situation in the Alpine forests is definitely serious and worrisome," say representatives of the Geneva-based World Conservation Union. Poor environmental management of the forests, some of them virgin, could lead to big disasters like increased risk of avalanches, landslips, torrents and flooding.
In recognition -- even if belated -- of the apprehensions of locals and the government, the European Community established an Alpine Convention in 1991. The Convention aims to safeguard the increasingly precarious ecological balance of the largely pristine Alpine region.
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