To date, Pontresina has escaped large-scale natural catastrophes. Far-sighted investment in hazard zone planning and avalanche and landslide shoring have made crucial contributions, but has required continual intensive analysis of natural hazards on the part of the authorities.
Pontresina considered the possible consequences of climate change at an early stage and, thanks to extensive analysis, can now be regarded as a pioneering municipality with regard to permafrost, landslide and avalanche protection. It is still the case that it is not self-evident that protective measures can be implemented prior to major disasters.
The Giandains Protection Dam, completed in 2003, protects the village of Pontresina from both avalanches and the possible consequences of thawing permafrost. The total area of the construction is 6.3 hectares. Over three hectares of waste wood and young forest had to be cleared for the purpose. The project cost the Municipality Pontresina alone around 1875 million Swiss francs, of which 75% was subsidised by the Confederation and the Canton.
Permafrost is a widespread phenomenon above 2000 m a.s.l. in the Alps. Combined with global warming, thawing permafrost affects various natural hazards. Whereas thawed rubble in loose debris increases volumes of debris flow, greater rock fall is to be anticipated in rock permafrost, causing landslides at unstable points.
Flyer "Protection dam in Pontresina" (PDF 1.4MB)