[Video] Why does the Swiss-Italian border move so much?

[Video] Why does the Swiss-Italian border move so much?

Switzerland has borders with five other nations, with boundaries on rivers, cities and mountains. Despite being usually static in nature, except during conflict, Switzerland and Italy are facing a rather peculiar problem: their border is moving.

Watershed line means Swiss - Italian border remains fluid

Instead of an onrush of tanks and infantry, the border between Switzerland and Italy is changing because of the climate. Most of the border is in the mountains. The dividing line is drawn where snowmelt flows off the mountain, called the watershed line. If the water flows into the Mediterranean or the Adriatic, the mountainside is Italian; if it flows into the North or Black Sea, it is in Switzerland.

The problem arises through glacial melt, which is moving the flow of water away or towards each country. Glacier peaks are typically used as part of the border, so when these melt, they can move the watershed line or reveal a new rock peak, that then becomes the border.

Italian restaurant may soon become Swiss

This is an issue for the mountain restaurant and hotel of Rifugio Guide del Cervino, which, because of the glacial melt, may soon switch from being in Italy to Switzerland. The business, which forms part of the Swiss ski resort of Zermatt, may soon find itself having to pay Swiss taxes because of the fluid border.

To avoid heated debate over lost territory, in 2008 the Italians and Swiss signed into law a pact that recognises the Alps as a moving border, meaning that the border can move as much as it likes, so long as it is caused by the environment. Experts say that the situation is a good example of how watershed borders might affect more volatile boundaries, like those in Kashmir and in the Andes.

Interested to learn more about the moving border? Check out the video below.

Video: YouTube / Vox

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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