* Ecopop calls for limit on immigration of 0.2 pct per year
* Wants 10 pct of foreign aid budget for family planning
* Swiss population has been rising sharply since 1990
ZURICH, Nov 2 Swiss environmentalists, tapping
into unease about population levels in their landlocked nation
at the heart of Europe, on Friday presented the government with
120,000 signatures to force a referendum on limiting
Under the Swiss system of direct democracy, 100,000
signatures need to be collected to put a cause to a national
vote. Referenda take place up to four times a year after the
government sets dates for the voting.
Ecopop, an organization which campaigns on environmental and
population issues, on Friday handed in boxes containing the
signatures s u pporting their initiative "Stop overpopulation to
safeguard natural resources".
The initiative calls for an annual limit on Swiss population
growth through immigration of 0.2 percent. It also demands that
the government invest at least 10 percent of its international
aid budget into measures to support family planning abroad.
"The pressure on land, nature and the countryside is
considerable and quality of life is continuously deteriorating
due to a lack of living space," said Philippe Roch, a former
director of the environment department and member of Ecopop.
The imitative reflects growing concern about overcrowding
among residents of Switzerland, where the population reached the
8 million mark this year - a rise of more than 140 percent since
1990. In March, voters backed a proposal to severely limit the
building of second homes after proponents argued rampant over
development risked destroying Switzerland's natural beauty.
The right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) - which has long
blamed rising rents and crowded transport on an influx of
foreigners - handed in an initiative earlier this year to "stop
mass immigration" by reimposing quotas on foreigners from the
Switzerland's government has urged voters not to back the
initiative saying it would bring Switzerland into conflict with
its treaty obligations with the European Union.
The number of foreigners living in Switzerland rose 3
percent in the year to August to 1.8 million.
Business lobby group Economiesuisse said Ecopop's initiative
would compromise Switzerland's relationship with the EU and
impose "senseless rules" on Swiss development aid.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley)