Go-ahead for controversial ‘mega reservoirs’ in west France

Critics of the basins say they will worsen water shortages and that farmers are ‘hoarding’ a scarce resource

The mega reservoirs will be used to collect water for farming, but opponents say that they represent the ‘privatisation’ and ‘hoarding’ of water (photo for illustration only)
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A court has approved the construction of 16 controversial mega reservoirs in western France that will collect water for use in farming.

In doing so, the administrative court in Poitiers threw out appeals from environmental groups against the projects.

Among the 16 approved schemes is the mega reservoir at Sainte-Soline, the scene of violent clashes between police and protesters in late March.

The enormous “basins” will store water that farmers can use on their crops during summer, protecting their ability to produce food in drier periods.

But critics argue the reservoirs waste water through evaporation and are a “theft” of a precious and sometimes scarce resource.

They say the basins treat the symptoms of the problem (a lack of water in summer) while worsening the cause (taking water out of the water table).

Read more: Several injured in ‘water basin protest’ in France: what happened?

Read more: Man in coma after ‘intolerable violence’ at France reservoir protests

Capacities reduced

Seven of the 16 reservoirs - situated in the Sèvre Niortaise river basin zone (Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Pays de la Loire) - had already received approval in 2021, which allowed construction work to begin.

The decision in Poitiers on Tuesday rejected appeals against the environmental authorisations for the projects.

Meanwhile, the capacities of the nine other reservoirs were revised downwards.

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Violent clashes

One man was left in a coma after being hit by a projectile during the clashes between protesters and police at Sainte-Soline last month.

The protests attracted 30,000 protesters, say organisers. Police put the figure at 6,000.

The scale of the violence led to France’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, calling for the environmental campaign group, Les Soulèvements de la Terre, to be disbanded.

The group hit back, saying “the only dissolution that should seriously be considered today is the dissolution of this government”.

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