You will find here ASL’s past achievements.
ORP (Operation Clean Rivers) was a long-term operation lasting more than ten years, from 1990 to 2002. Its aim was to draw up an inventory of all the pipes in every river or tributary feeding into Lake Geneva and to identify those which were illegally carrying polluted waste likely to affect the quality of the water.
2000 volunteers systematically checked each river, sector by sector, using an analysis kit and an identification sheet provided by the ASL. This made it possible to gather information on 8’300 km of rivers and 20’143 pipes. These 20,143 pipes were classified as follows:
- 6’077 were either definitely polluting or suspected of polluting. They were divided into 3 categories: 2254 were definitely polluting, 1390 were considered highly likely to be polluting, 2433 were suspected of polluting and awaiting confirmation.
- Overall, there were 7,421 areas where waste of all kinds had been dumped.
In addition, the ASL sent 985 files detailing instances of pollution to 493 Lake Geneva municipalities, as well as to the federal, departmental and cantonal administrations.
This operation, which mobilized the ASL and its volunteers from 1980 to 2016, aimed to identify and clean up the sources of pollution in the tributaries of Lake Geneva.
You can now consult the interactive map of Operation Clean Rivers.
With the support of its volunteers and civil service staff members, the ASL revisited 232 of the pollution sources identified in the second campaign. The same analyses were carried out in order to provide a comparison between the earlier situation and the present day.
This new Operation Clean Rivers is designed to assist the cantons and departments by alerting them to the threat posed to the lake by pollution in the rivers which feed it. The ASL warns them when a problem has been identified, and provides them with updated information concerning the sources of pollution and the measures necessary to remove or clean them.
As a reminder, ORP is an ASL project which aims to identify and list all the sources of pollution contaminating the rivers of the Lake Geneva basin, including the waste dumps found along their shores. In the 12 years after it was launched in 1990, more than 2,000 volunteers covered almost all of the 8,300 km of Lake Geneva’s hydrographic network, checking 20,143 pipes.
The finding was striking: 6,077 pipes were considered to be polluting, or suspected of pollution, as follows:
- 2261 were definitely polluting
- 1390 were assessed as highly likely to pollute
- 2426 were suspected of polluting and awaiting confirmation
Between 2002 and 2004, the ASL organized a campaign to check that the requisite cleanup measures had indeed been taken, and that the sources of pollution which revealed in ORP1 were actually being eliminated. To do this, the ASL established a statistically representative sample of the pipes which had been identified in ORP 1 as definite sources of pollution. Out of the 2,254 listed initially, 232 polluting pipes were checked a second time (ORP2).
The glass was half full, 53% of the pipes had been cleaned up.(cf. Lémaniques n°54)
In 2014, the ASL launched a third campaign in two phases. First, the 232 pipes checked during ORP 2 were reinspected for the third time, to compare the results with those obtained in 2004. The second phase was designed to assess the current situation of pollution in the rivers of the Lake Geneva region.
The results obtained during the first phase show that 85% of polluting discharges have been cleaned up, a very encouraging result. The most marked improvement was in the Valais, where the percentage of sanitised discharges practically doubled. Geneva increased its sanitation rate by 14%, but less significantly than the other regions since it is equivalent to about half of the general average, which is 32%. During this campaign, we also noted that 21% of the pipes (48) have physically disappeared. It should also be noted that among the checked pipes, 17 of them were inaccessible or impossible to check, which is why the total checked has been reduced to 215.
These gratifying results show that the authorities have taken the bull by the horns and acted to clean up the pollution at a local level. However, we are aware that there is still a considerable amount of waste dumped into rivers, and this needs to be stopped. Even if the resulting pollution remains relatively minor as far as the lake is concerned, the local impact on the rivers themselves can be much greater – both plants and wildlife are liable to be affected. It should also be noted that these results give a snapshot at a particular moment. Pipes which are dry and clean today may not be so tomorrow. It should therefore be borne in mind that although these results certainly reflect a favorable trend, they may not be an accurate reflection of the whole situation.
Continuing to monitor and provide information for public authorities, the ASL is launching the second phase of ORP 3 this autumn.
In order to assess the current state of things on a larger scale, stringent checks will be carried out on a fresh set of river locations. Three criteria will be used to select these new areas:
- The type of land use (urban, agricultural, natural, etc.);
- The spread of urban development since 1990;
- The volume of pollution from pipes which were identified as unquestionably polluting during the first campaign of 1990-2002 (2254 discharges in all).
This study will focus on around twenty sectors to be analyzed and mapped. The results will allow us to target our next campaign to reduce pollution in the rivers of the region by identifying the areas which should be prioritised for improving wastewater treatment.
It would obviously not be possible for the ASL staff to carry out such an extensive study without help. This project would not be feasible without the active participation of all those who have volunteered to spend their time valiantly trudging along the waterways: we are deeply grateful for their practical involvement in this third edition of Operation Clean Rivers. And it’s not over yet!
Operation Léman Rives Propres (Clean shores for Lake Geneva)
After the rivers, the lake. After “Operation Clean Rivers” (ORP), “Operation Léman Rives Propres” (OLRP).
These two campaigns share a common goal: to make the population of the Lake Geneva area more aware of the issue of water pollution by enabling them to take practical measures and to track down polluting discharges in every nook and cranny. While the ORP allows the ASL to identify the sources of pollution in the rivers and streams which flow into the lake, the OLRP detects unauthorised and uncontrolled pollution leaching directly into Lake Geneva.
Téléchargez le PDF OLRP – Léman Rives Propres.
A major contribution to the sustainable management of water resources
In order to bring together the efforts of all of those involved in using the water resources of Lake Geneva on both the French and Swiss sides, including civil society, the ASL adopted the “Water Charter of the Lake Geneva Region” at the AGM for “Water in the Lake Geneva Region ” which took place in Geneva on October 27, 2005.
The charter is a genuine code of ethics, approved by partners and stakeholders in the region as a framework of principles in the following areas:
- Orienting cross-border water management towards sustainability
- Fostering collaboration between political leaders, managers, socio-professional and environmental organizations
Coordinating the decisions taken on both sides of the border.
- Defining a framework of conditions to be respected in organising activities
- Making a contribution to consensus building (setting up a system to settle complaints or differences of opinion and arbitrate conflicts of interest)
- Constructing a way of adapting the principles of international conventions and texts to local needs
The ASL is actively engaged in the fight against jet-skis on Lake Geneva. For a long time, jet-skis have been completely banned in Switzerland. In France, however, there have been a series of changes in the law over the last few years. The ASL joined a group of French associations to fight to prevent the authorisation of jet-skis in the French section of Lake Geneva and in 2014 they won the case. However, the Grenoble administrative tribunal abrogated the last two judgements which forbade the use of jet-skis. Given this about-turn in the verdict, our group will be contesting the decision.
A few reminders of the dangers posed by jet-skis
The damage caused to the environment
- The impact on aquatic birds: Lake Geneva is a major site of international importance for migratory birds, such as ducks, grebes, and coots, which have flown up to 5,000 kilometers to reach Lake Geneva in search of food and a safe haven for the winter. The noise and disturbance from jet-skis forces them to take flight repeatedly, depleting their energy and affecting their ability to survive. Native species of water-birds are also disturbed by the jet-skis.
- The negative effects on the lakeside habitat includes destruction of reed-beds and creation of artificial waves which erode the shoreline.
Social problems caused by jet-skis
- Jet-skis create exceptionally high levels of noise pollution. Both discontinuous loud noise and strong vibrations seriously affect the well-being of other users of the lake, and also of the residents in the areas where jet-skiing takes place.
- There is a very high risk of accidents associated with jet-skis, due to their extremely fast speed. This is especially hazardous during the summer months when there are also many sailing boats and swimmers. The general interest should take precedence over the particular interests of a few individuals who indulge in this sport.
- Jet skiing also has a negative impact on fishing.
Economic problems caused by jet-skis
- In the French part of Lake Geneva, jet-skiing has a negative effect on both professional fishing (involving 59 fishermen) and amateur fishing (involving 3000 amateur fishermen).
- Jet-skis pose a high risk for fishing equipment, as well as for its other users. For example, a fishing trawler with two 50m extenders on each side and a 200m trawl net covers an area larger than a football field and travels at a maximum speed of 5 km / h.
- Jet-skis negatively affect the quality of life of the many sailors who take pleasure boats onto the lake. Reconciling these two activities is very difficult.
History of French laws concerning the practice of jet-skiing on Lake Geneva
1989 (February 7): A prefectural decree prohibited the practice of jet-skiing on the French part of Lake Geneva.
2014 (September 18): The Lyon Court of Appeal issued a decree which reauthorized the practice of jet-skiing on the lake, at the request of a professional wishing to open a base in Maxilly-sur-Léman, pending the development of a new text regulating the circulation of nautical devices.
2015 (June 23): A prefectural decree limited the practice of jet-skiing to the use of electric jet-skis in a limited area and during restricted hours.
Following violations observed around Sciez, the ASL sent a letter to the Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Madame Ségolène Royal. We received a response from her office, stating that they would quickly contact the Prefect of Haute-Savoie so that steps aimed at respecting the navigation regulations on Lake Geneva could be put in place.
2017 (June): The administrative court of Grenoble repealed the last two prefectural decrees, which had prohibited the practice of jet-skiing.
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