The Gentrification Side Effect Of A New Swiss 'Eco City'

In the small French-Swiss border town of Viry, a new "ecodistrict" is being built from scratch. With environmentally friendly homes, the town is aiming to attract a rich population from neighboring Geneva - to the detriment of locals, wh


GENEVA – In Viry, a small French town 15 kilometers from Geneva, there are cranes as far as the eye can see. The town has 3,600 inhabitants, but this number is about to double, mostly thanks to the Swiss coming from across the border.

A new city is being created from scratch here, but not just any city, an "ecodistrict". The environmentally friendly project is poised to attract a new population, almost entirely made of Swiss people or members of Geneva's international population. Left out by a county that doesn't produce enough accommodations, they have set their heart on Ecovela, a futuristic and "awesome" eco-friendly town, according to Genevan State Councilor Michèle Künzler. The councilor admits that "it saddens her to see what her neighboring country is capable of doing, when Geneva is not planning any construction of this kind."

All together, 800 houses and apartments will be built, delivered in different phases until 2020. More than 1000 people will be able to move into the low-energy apartments, which have green roofs and photovoltaic panels. The city will include a pedestrian town square and a "green corridor," of walkways, planted with 750 trees. Price per square meter: 4000 euros, which is very reasonable. There will be a percentage of social housing as well.

Not everyone believes Viry's Ecovela is "awesome." Many locals are worried the town might lose its identity. "We're not at home anymore, but these wealthy Swiss will feel right at home. Borders have disappeared and life is getting more expensive. They can afford it, but we can't," says Anne-Marie, who voted for the far-right Front National party for the first time during the French presidential election.

Claude Barbier, a city councilman from the Green party, is angry too, but for other reasons: "What's the point in building an eco-friendly town if the mayor plans to build a motorway junction right next to it?" He also points out that the current wood-burning power station won't be enough to heat homes in a region that never breaches 19°C; not only does the wood need to be imported from other regions by truck, but electric heaters will have to be added. "So what's the ecological gain?" he wonders.

"There's a race for housing, which is a source of imbalance, both socially and ecologically," Claude Barbier concludes.

Read the full story in French by Christian Lecomte

Photo - Viry Eco Quartier

*This is a digest item, not a direct translation

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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