in Deux-Sèvres, a large demonstration to protect water

La Rochénard (Deux-Sèvres), report

Spring brings new colors to the mobilization towards the mega-pools in Deux-Sèvres. Nearly 7,000 people, according to the organizers, gathered between March 25 and 27 in La Rochénard to oppose the construction of water reserves taken from the groundwater, called megabassins, intended for agriculture. A convention started with a call from the organizations Bassines Non Merci, The Uprisings of the Earth and Confédération Paysanne [1].

Protesters arrive on foot at the demonstration site due to the numerous roadblocks for the gendarmes upstream. © Quentin Vernault / Reporterre

Our goal from the beginning has been for this problem to be identified as a national problem, and that is what we are experiencing today, two weeks before the presidential election. People came from all over France to join us », welcomed Julien Le Guet, spokesman for the Bassines non merci organization, hours before the start of the demonstration on Saturday afternoon. If no candidate for the election were present, political figures such as Europe Écologie – Les Verts MEPs (EELV) Marie Toussaint and Benoît Biteau, deputies for La France insoumise (BIA) Loïc Prud’homme, or even the leader of the Deux-Sèvres Communist Party, Frédéric Giraud, answered the call. And opponents who were not necessarily affiliated with organizations arrived from the four corners of France, especially via chartered buses from fifteen cities.

Julien Le Guet, spokesman for the Bassines Non Merci collective. © Quentin Vernault / Reporterre

It is difficult to bring the fight against water trafficking into a current situation marked by the conflict in Ukraine. However, the situation can not be an excuse to darken the effort. Nicolas Girod, spokesman for the Confédération Paysanne, thus criticized those who, like Emmanuel Macron, want to revise the European strategy in the name of food sovereignty. From the ground to the table »with the aim of making agriculture more sustainable.

We are not only against water storage or irrigation, we are against what mega-ponds mean, a destructive and predatory agro-industrial model. It is in the same logic as animal meal, GMO, pesticides that the agro-industrial model tried to sell us for years … Today we use the pretext of the war in Ukraine to tell us that we will have to produce more. Agribusiness has always been unable to feed the world, mega-ponds will be exactly the same »he said.

16 replacement water reserves are planned in the Marais poitevin, the first of which, Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon, began to be filled at the beginning of the year. According to their opponents, they will be used by a handful of farmers who produce grain for export or corn to feed animals.

According to the organizers, more than 7,000 people participated in the mobilization. © Quentin Vernault / Reporterre

For its part, the state did not facilitate the task of the protesters. The prefecture has banned the circulation of agricultural machinery (excluding local residents) in La Rochénard and neighboring municipalities, as well as demonstrations in several municipalities. She justified her choice by referring to the damage committed in the Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon basin in recent months. Two helicopters monitored the protest and traffic was disrupted nearby. Many gendarmerie vans were deployed. The monitoring unit that we are honored to have today [samedi] costs more than the Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon basin itself, more than 3 million euros »was offended by the young activist Romain Guillot, president of the Éco Avenir association.

A local farmer drags a float at the head of the procession. © Quentin Vernault / Reporterre

On Thursday, March 17, a camera and a router were found near the home of Christian Le Guet, father of Julien Le Guet. A surveillance device installed by the national police, as recognized by the prefecture of Deux-Sèvres. This is enough to annoy opponents of mega-pools a little more. Christian Le Guet has also filed a complaint against X. Military equipment was used to spy on Bassine’s Non Merci activists ! Earth defenders are not terrorists, they do not break the law. If anyone breaks the law today, it’s the builders of these mega ponds. The laws of nature require that these mega-basins not be built »said MEP Marie Toussaint.

Mobile gendarmes face the protesters. © Quentin Vernault / Reporterre

Despite these obstacles, a well-filled and colorful procession started early Saturday afternoon from La Rochénard towards the site of a future basin in Epannes. Under a glorious sun, protesters of all ages marched to the music. slogans No Bassaran » or Everyone hates bedding » sounded here and there. Participants were invited to come dressed in overalls with trees to be transplanted and garden tools. After encircling the land that was to house the water reserve, some have planted trees there. A big SEA was marked with tarpaulins. The protesters then walked along a nearby field and the organizers invited them to dig up a pipe that could be used to supply the future basin. Armed with shovels, picks and a lot of energy, some managed to dig big holes, encouraged by the other protesters, in a fun atmosphere. Today, the farmer who owns this land no longer waters, but he still collects water rights to give to his friends. », launched an organizer in a megaphone. Several pieces of pipe were removed.

A protester carries a hoe for an action to plant plants at the site of the future giant basin. © Quentin Vernault / Reporterre

As the procession circled along the field, some protesters advanced in the direction of the gendarmerie forces located a hundred yards away. Some fired fireworks. The gendarmes sent a water cannon shot at a small group of protesters and then advanced towards the procession by sending tear gas. This caused a small popular movement and some annoyance among the protesters, but most of them continued on their way. They joined the tractors a little further ahead, who had not been allowed to follow the demonstration, to end the route with a snack of fruit and homemade biscuits.

The gendarmes send tear gas at the protesters facing them. © Quentin Vernault / Reporterre

Among the participants, it was rather joy that dominated. It is a successful event in spite of all the pitfalls, the control. You have to want it when you get here, but you can see that resistance has built up ! It is our future that is at stake »for example, Annie, 65, from Niort rejoiced, while her buddy Lise, 43, from La Rochelle, regretted police roadblocks on the way. I want to defend a vision of agriculture that is not that of the basins, and I want us to keep wetlands, waterways for the sake of biodiversity. Here it is the identity of the Marais poitevin that is at stake, but it is nice to see that it is not just a local issue, and to be supported at the national level. »estimated for her part, Chloé, 28, resident of Deux-Sèvres.

Protesters plant a tree on the ground of a future giant basin. © Quentin Vernault / Reporterre

After the demonstration on Saturday afternoon, a festive evening was planned for La Rochénard. Then, on Sunday, discussions were to be held on the theme of water with various collectives. The possibility of organizing a mobilization that should not be weakened in the coming months. We are determined not to build more pools. We will ensure that all construction sites are stopped and we will take strong action »warns Lena, about the Earth Uprising.

Our report in pictures:

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