Lavaux (Switzerland)

The terraced vineyards found on the shores of Lake Geneva between Lausanne and Vevey are, just like Engadin and the Alpilles, one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.

In 1972, the winemakers called on Franz Weber to help them fight a development project that would disfigure their vineyards. As soon as he learnt of the situation, Franz Weber created the Save Lavaux Association, and in February 1973 he launched a popular initiative to add the definitive protection of the entire Lavaux vineyards area to the Vaud Constitution. On 12 June 1977, the population of Vaud accepted Franz Weber's initiative with 56.8% of votes. The protection of Lavaux was therefore officially inscribed in the Vaud Constitution, Article 6b. In 1979, this provision was confirmed with the Lavaux Protection Law (LLavaux). The protection of the vineyards seemed guaranteed.

However, during the revision of the Vaud Constitution in 2002, article 6b was repealed. Meanwhile, Lavaux proceeded to be covered with concrete. To put an end to the disfigurement of the region, a second Save Lavaux initiative was launched, demanding the reintroduction of its protection into the Constitution. It was accepted with a large majority (81% of votes) by the people of Vaud in 2005.

 

Article 52a of the Vaud Constitution

1. The region of Lavaux, from Lutrive to Corsier, is declared a protected site.

2. Any violation of this protection may result in administrative or judicial action by those facing losses and by organisations for the protection of nature and natural heritage.

3. The implementation act shall comply fully with the perimeter in force, particularly in maintaining the wine-growing area and the traditional character of the villages and hamlets.

 

In 2007, the area was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, this listing does not have any legally enforceable value and has only fuelled developers' desire. Lavaux remains a region under serious pressure from developers. After all, who wouldn't want to live there? The local officials, responsible for implementing the constitutional protection of the area, have neither the will, nor the means, to curb this pressure and enforce the protection of the vineyards.

Recognising this growing problem, the Save Lavaux Association, with its president Franz Weber, launched a third Save Lavaux initiative, this time legislative, in 2009, to make the legislation protecting Lavaux more restrictive and binding. After attempting, in vain, to invalidate this initiative, the regional authorities proposed a counter-project, presented as a 'compromise'. On 18 May 2014, the initiative "Save Lavaux III" was rejected by the people of Vaud in favour of the government's counter-project.

The Save Lavaux Association must therefore continue its work monitoring the situation and engaging with local authorities to avoid these magnificent vineyards being sacrificed to the property developers.