France and Switzerland finally agree to talk about the River Rhône

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France and Switzerland finally agree to talk about the River Rhône
The Rhône in Lyon. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP)

After more than a decade of cross-border tension, France and Switzerland will enter into negotiations about the River Rhône - which could lead to a drop in water level in Geneva's famous lake.


France and Switzerland are set to sit down for high level talks over the Rhône river.

The Rhône is a major river in both countries. It rises in the Alps and flows west and south through Lake Geneva and southeastern France before discharging into the Mediterranean Sea.

It has been the source of some tension between the two countries in recent years. The French government has been asking the Swiss government to review the management of the flow of the river for more than a decade.


Switzerland now says it is “ready to negotiate, with France, a Franco-Swiss agreement on the regulation of Lac Léman [Lake Geneva],” the largest freshwater lake in Western Europe.

“This agreement will enable us to cooperate with France to regulate the lake's water level, particularly during floods or droughts,” the Swiss government said, after it had approved, “the Swiss delegation’s negotiating mandate”. 

A hydroelectric dam near Geneva affects the flow of the river into France, which relies on the Rhône for agricultural and tourism purposes, as well as cooling four nuclear power plants. 

The flow has fallen seven percent since the 1960s, and France is concerned that it could drop another 20 percent by the middle of the 21st century - meaning greater variations in water levels, that could lead to greater risk of droughts in spring and floods in winter.

“In the face of climate change, the Franco-Swiss agreement will improve the exchange of information. It will be based on forecasts of the risks to people and property, and of possible damage to basic uses,” the Swiss government has said. 


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