Freedom News

France: Water convoy to press for action as drought deepens in Poitou

The bicycle and tractor rally will travel from the south-western town of Sainte Soline to Paris to demand accountability over the imposition of controversial mega-basins.

It’s hoped that the week-long rally, ending in the capital on August 26-27, will draw thousands of people in opposition to the “draining of the plains” following major protest in March, which attracted up to 30,000 people and saw high levels of police violence.

Up to 300 mega-basin projects have been either built or are in process as part of the government’s response to worsening climactic conditions and increasing levels of drought, particularly in the south of the country.

The water retention sites have been pitched as essential for irrigation, but have faced severe criticism from campaigners as being little more than a vehicle to transfer water access to major agro companies. The reservoirs are filled by drawing from aquifers and then sold to big firms, which local people and small farmers say degrades regional water resources for the sake of profit. One popular slogan on the matter is that “this isn’t drought, it’s looting.”

In a statement announcing the rally, organisers from Bassines non Merci (Basins No Thanks) and the Confédération Paysanne said:

“The government’s Water Plan does not respond to agricultural, food and environmental issues. The mega-basins are in no way a method to restore good condition and an equitable sharing of water resources. As more and more scientific and citizen voices claim these covered craters, filled by drawing from our water table, are a maladaptation to global warming. Clinging to these projects means delaying our necessary and urgent agro-ecological transition.

“Despite these findings, and repeated requests for a moratorium, the projects and work on mega-basins have still not been put on hold.

“At the end of August, we will therefore go to Orléans to hold the Agence de l’Eau Loire-Bretagne to account, an authority which finances 80% of the basins’ cost with public money and which bears a heavy responsibility in this scandal and the subsequent escalation of tensions around water.

“The immediate and total cessation of funding for mega-basins is the only solution to put an end to the violence and allow the reopening of dialogue.” 

Organisers of the rally, which is being backed by more than 50 unions, associations and collectives including from the French CNT and Extinction Rebellion, also hope to expand the action into a series of occupations of roads around the country.

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Pic: Detail from promotional poster

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