Megabasins in Puy-de-Dôme: opponents of the construction of the “two biggest” projects in France are mobilizing

To defend water as a “common good”, opponents of the construction of “the two largest megabasins in France” are organizing, Saturday May 11, a major “educational, festive and artistic hike” from Vertaizon, in Puy -de-Dôme

Megabasins in Puy-de-Dôme: opponents of the construction of the “two biggest” projects in France are mobilizing

To defend water as a “common good”, opponents of the construction of “the two largest megabasins in France” are organizing, Saturday May 11, a major “educational, festive and artistic hike” from Vertaizon, in Puy -de-Dôme.

More than 5,000 activists, according to the organizers, 2,000, according to the gendarmerie, are mobilized to denounce the construction of two water reserves – one of 14 hectares, the other of 18 hectares – intended to irrigate 800 hectares in the Limagne plain, where Limagrain, the fourth largest seed company in the world, is located.

The procession, which is subject to reinforced security measures due to its “sensitive” nature, after the violent clashes that occurred during the mobilization of Sainte-Soline (Deux-Sèvres) in March 2023, set off shortly after 10:30 a.m. A small group of cyclists set off from the nearby town of Clermont-Ferrand to join the walkers.

Many dressed in blue to “symbolize water” at the request of the organizers – including Extinction Rebellion and Les Uprisings of the Earth – the demonstrators gathered in a good-natured atmosphere, with two tractors led by the Peasant Confederation. “We are here to say that we absolutely do not want the work to begin,” said Anton Deums, from the Bassines non merci (BNM) 63 collective, from the forecourt of Vertaizon station, the meeting point. crowd must materialize in space the route of one of the two planned reservoirs, aiming, according to the collective, to “privatize more than 2.3 million cubic meters of water for thirty-six farms, most of them linked to Limagrain” .

“Robin Hood in Reverse”

“In this country, the agro-industrialists, the people who make money, are much more heard, (…) it’s Robin Hood in reverse,” he told Agence France-Presse (AFP ) the national secretary of environmentalists, Marine Tondelier, present among the demonstrators. “On this kind of project it’s exactly that: there is no longer enough water, let’s reserve it for the richest, and let the others fend for themselves,” added Ms. Tondelier.

For Limagrain, “it is essential that farmers can continue to produce quality crops in sufficient quantities” and therefore “irrigate when necessary”, in the name of “food security” in times of climate change.

These megabasin projects, carried out by the free trade union association of Turleuros – which brings together thirty-six farmers, including the president of the Limagrain cooperative – have not yet been the subject of a formal request for authorization, and their Opponents hope to obtain a moratorium. The anti-basins accuse Limagrain of wanting to “secure its production of seed corn intended for export”. According to the agricultural cooperative, the reservoirs would be filled by sampling in Allier between November 1 and March 31, respecting the authorized flow rate of 45.7 cubic meters per second.

“When we started the first protests, the majority of people didn’t know what a basin was. Today the balance of power on this subject against the privatization of water has considerably increased,” Adèle Planchard, of the Uprisings of the Earth, told AFP.

Water withdrawals intended for irrigation more than doubled between 2010 and 2020 in France, reaching 3.42 billion cubic meters in 2020, according to a report from the regional chamber of the Court of Auditors of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, published July 2023.