Clashes as thousands march in France against water stealing from agribusiness

Clashes as thousands march in France against water stealing from agribusiness


Thousands of protesters defied an official ban on demonstrations on Saturday against the establishment of new water storage infrastructure for agricultural irrigation in western France, according to organizers.

Clashes erupted between paramilitary gendarmes and protesters, with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin reporting that 61 officers had been injured, 22 seriously, but the casualties among the protesters took no toll.

Bassines Non Merci, an advocacy group bringing together environmental groups, unions and anti-capitalist groups, organized the demonstration against what it describes as “water theft” by “agribusiness” in western France.

In the village of Sainte-Soline in the Deux-Sèvres department, huge water “pools” are being erected to irrigate crops, which opponents say distorts access to water in drought conditions.

Around 1,500 police officers were on duty, according to Emmanuelle Dubee, the prefect of the Deux-Sevres department, who said she expected around 5,000 protesters to descend on the village of around 350 people.

Dubee said on Friday that she wanted to limit possible “acts of violence,” referring to the clashes between protesters and security forces that marred an earlier rally in March.

The Sainte-Soline water reservoir is the second of 16 installations of this type, part of a project developed by a group of 400 farmers organized in a water cooperative to significantly reduce tap water consumption in summer.

Covered with a plastic tarpaulin, the open-air craters are filled in winter by pumping water from above-ground groundwater and can store up to 650,000 square meters of water.

This water is used for irrigation in the summer when there is less rain.

Opponents claim the “megabasins” are wrongly reserved for large export-oriented grain farms, depriving the community of access to the vital resource.

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