Conservation group condemns Germany for go-ahead to building on protected wetland

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has strongly criticised Germany for lifting a court-ordered delay to develop part of a German wetland, protected under the international Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

On 28 February, IFAW along with two German environmental groups, NABU (Naturschutzbund Deutschland) and BUND, announced a new injunction to attempt to prevent aerospace company, Airbus Industrie, from partially filling the Mühlenberger Loch, the largest freshwater tidal ecosystem in the EU, with sand from other legally protected areas, in order to build a new factory. However, before this, the Hamburg Higher Administrative Court had lifted the delay to the start of work, which had earlier been granted.

“It is incomprehensible for a citizen to have the Hamburg Higher Administrative Court state that it is aware that a partial filling of the Mühlenberger Loch will result in losing forever an area that is important under nature preservation law, while at the same time giving the green light for its destruction,” commented Dr. Markus Risch, Director of IFAW Germany. “In terms of environmental policy, Germany has become even more untrustworthy as an international contracting partner.”

A week previously, Delmar Blasco, Secretary-General of the Ramsar Convention, the intergovernmental body for the conservation of wetlands, hit out at Airbus’ defence of its plan to eliminate 20% of the loch which provides a critical habitat for 70 species of migratory birds (see related story).

Campaigners have also been taking to the streets about Airbus’ attempt to access 1.5 million cubic meters of sand from Hahnöfer Sand, a protected island on the river Elb, with which to fill in some of the 170 hectares (420 acres) of the Mühlenberger Loch. “Airbus is adding insult to injury, ” according to IFAW’s Habitat Director Jared Blumenfeld “First they decided to push ahead with filling the globally protected Mühlenberger Loch wildlife sanctuary. Now, the corporate giant has the audacity to announce the destruction of other legally safeguarded areas in order to fill the Loch. We are confident the courts will bring an end to this nonsense.”

IFAW also says that Airbus plans to excavate the majority of the eight million cubic metres of sand required to fill Mühlenberger Loch from the Delphingrund area, in the Wadden Sea, which has been designated as an Important Bird Area under EU law and accepted by the European Commission as a legally protected Natura 2000 site.

“Out of a total of 11 million cubic meters of sand necessary to fill the endangered Loch, 9.5 million cubic meters are effectively off-limits because of their legally protected status,” said Blumenfeld.

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