The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

The length of the airport runways is being debated in the canton of Zurich

The aircraft noise debate in the canton of Zurich has once again become much louder: On March 3, Zurich voters will decide whether two runways at Zurich Airport should be extended. They will also be deciding on chaotic people, shore paths and judges.

The airport bill is considered to be the vote of the year in the canton - and so the tensions ran high in the run-up to the ballot. Opponents even demanded that the referendum newspaper not be delivered - their arguments had been changed and shortened by the cantonal government.

The cantonal government rejected this representation and the referendum newspaper was sent out unchanged. With regard to the controversial bill, it is basically the middle-class parties that are in favor and the left-green parties that are against.

More punctual or bigger?

With longer runways, the safety margin could be increased and operational processes at Zurich Airport optimized, the proponents argue under the motto "safer, more reliable and more punctual".

Runway extensions would increase capacity, opponents criticize. More aircraft movements would lead to more noise and climate-damaging emissions. The "highly frequented and excellently connected airport" is large enough today.

Flughafen Zürich AG wants to extend runway 28 by 400 meters to the west and runway 32 by 280 meters to the north. In order to be able to submit a planning approval procedure, it also needs the approval of the cantonal representatives on the Board of Directors. The cantonal government supports the proposal. After an intensive debate, the cantonal council also spoke out in favor of the runway extensions - the decision was narrowly passed by 87 votes to 83.

Making chaotic people pay

On 3 March, the people of Zurich will also decide whether the organizers and participants of unauthorized demonstrations will have to pay for the police operation and any property damage caused.

The SVP's "Anti-Chaoten-Initiative" demands that such costs must be passed on in all cases. A majority of the Cantonal Council is in favor of a weakened counter-proposal that only provides for an invoice to be issued to "deliberately acting polluters".

The initiators argue that it is currently up to the municipalities to decide whether to charge "chaotic people" or to pass on the costs of the demonstration to taxpayers. This leads to legal inequality and a cantonal regulation is needed. "It should not matter where the demonstration takes place when it comes to the obligation to bear the costs."

The opponents of the initiative and counter-proposal speak of a bureaucratic monster that is disproportionate to the costs to be collected. The obligation to pay fees is a deterrent to demonstration organizers and violates the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Paths along the banks

The popular initiative "For public lakeside paths with ecological upgrading" will also be put to the vote. Among other things, this initiative calls for a continuous lakeside path along Lake Zurich.

The proponents argue that freely accessible bodies of water and near-natural riverside paths have a unique appeal. Their importance is increasing in view of population growth and urban densification.

The construction of a lakeside path on Lake Zurich would only be possible with "a massive encroachment on private property", according to the opponents. The costs of 350 to 650 million francs - a large part for land acquisition and compensation - are disproportionate.

Finally, the voters will also decide on an uncontroversial amendment to the cantonal constitution in order to establish additional requirements for the eligibility of judges for the highest cantonal courts.

©Keystone/SDA

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