Comprehensive clearing of ammunition remnants across the entire valley floor is intended to lay the foundations for a safe and attractive future in Mitholz. But the remediation poses substantial challenges for the local population and the municipality. Therefore, the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport DDPS, which is in charge of the remediation, has defined a number of social objectives. It aims to
- ensure that the quality of life in Mitholz is no longer impaired by the former ammunition depot once the depot has been cleared;
- create conditions that make living and working in Mitholz possible and attractive again; and
- strengthen the confidence of the affected population and the general public in the authorities’ capabilities.
Monitoring from a social science perspective
In order to measure achievement of these goals, the DDPS has commissioned CDE to monitor relevant aspects throughout the entire duration of the remediation. With this research project, CDE is accompanying the remediation from a social science perspective and examining questions related to quality of life and residents’ attachment to their home village.
In a first step, the researchers are conducting a survey among the residents by means of face-to-face interviews. The municipality of Kandergrund, to which Mitholz belongs, and the residents’ association, IG Mitholz, are supporting them in contacting people.
The research results will provide a basis for monitoring achievement of the remediation’s social objectives. At the same time, the findings will help the community authorities answer key questions around the impacts of the remediation on community life in the village.
From a scientific point of view, the clearing of the ammunition depot and the associated relocation of residents represent a unique situation in Switzerland. On the one hand, the relocation is temporary, offering those affected the possibility to return. In many other cases – for example those related to brown coal mining in Germany – there is no such possibility. Because of its temporary nature, the relocation in Mitholz also raises questions related to the reoccupation and the future of the village. On the other hand, climate change will magnify natural hazards such as rockfalls and debris flows, affecting Swiss mountain areas. This may make it increasingly necessary to consider relocation as a potential measure of disaster risk management.
In this context, insights from the relocation in Mitholz can provide an important basis for planning future relocations.