Chinese want to buy large drinking water source in Turtmann VS
Water is increasingly becoming a valuable commodity - after the dry summer of 2022, another drought is threatening this year. Nevertheless, the rights to a Valais drinking water source are now to be sold for expensive money, and abroad of all places.
In the Valais village of Turtmann VS, there is a great deal of unrest. In summer, there is often a water shortage. Now the rights to the drinking water source "Mühlackern", one of the largest sources in Switzerland, are to be sold, according to information from Blick - and abroad. The municipality of Turtmann-Unterems confirms in writing upon request: "The municipality is aware of various negotiations, including with the Chinese."
As Blick learns from villagers, the issue of the spring has been a vexed topic for decades. Already 40 years ago, there were projects to use the water. Twelve years ago, the community agreed to a 99-year spring rights contract with the local entrepreneur*: Since then, he has been trying unsuccessfully to sell the rights to the water. He explains his idea to Blick on the phone: a project for about 30 million Swiss francs that includes the construction of a bottling plant for mineral water. The spring water, which flows through Switzerland's most famous mountain, would then be sold abroad in a bottle with a Matterhorn motif, since the Swiss mineral water market is already saturated. Chinese investors are now said to be very interested in such a project.
"This is horror"
But Blick knows that there is also an investor from the Valais who would be interested in the project and is offering several million francs for the rights to the spring water. However, the offer is inferior to that of the interested foreign parties, which is why this local investor is out of the question as a potential buyer, argues the owner of the spring rights.
In the village, the ongoing negotiations with the Chinese investors are causing red heads. "This is horror, really bad," says Myriam Born (80) from Eischoll VS, throwing up her hands. "In the summer, we weren't even allowed to wash our car because we had to save water. And now this source, which we could probably make good use of ourselves someday, is to be sold abroad? That's bad."
Water is becoming scarce - residents worried
Albin Ogier (77)
blows the same horn. The pensioner has lived in Turtmann since time immemorial and says: "Everything is sold abroad, as we have already seen with Toblerone. He is worried about the future: "At the moment we still have enough water, but in the summer we have to save water when sprinkling the garden. But the problem will probably become more and more acute. Then it would be good to be able to access the existing sources at some point."
Andy Z'Brun (51)
from Turtmann is also against a sale to foreign investors: "It should remain local. You can see now with energy what it's like when you're suddenly dependent on Russia." Local entrepreneur Urs Jäger (67) swims somewhat against the tide with his opinion, he thinks economically: "I have no problem with Chinese, because I am very open-minded. They already produce a lot for Europe and if they build a mineral water factory here, they will create jobs. It's just important to me that the employees then also find good working conditions." Although he would also like the spring to remain in Swiss or even Valais hands, "the Asians probably appreciate the water even more than we do.
Sudden change of plans?
According to Blick, the drinking water source "Mühlackern" is still for sale - nothing has been signed yet. The owner of the spring rights also suddenly rowed back in a second telephone conversation with Blick and denied wanting to sell to Chinese investors. He said that it was merely a consortium with foreign participation - i.e. a merger of several companies under the leadership of the previous source rights holder.
However, the enterprising businessman did not want to go into more detail - in any case, he did not want to see his name in the newspaper.
Blick published at 17.03.2023