Economy

The “basins” of Deux-Sèvres under tension



Beware of the water battle! Despite the prefectural decree prohibiting any gathering this weekend of October 29 and 30 near Sainte-Soline and Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon (Deux-Sèvres), several thousand demonstrators (NGOs and environmental and political associations) intend to come and protest against a major project of “basins”, in other words artificial reservoirs of water intended for use in agriculture. The call was launched by a collective “Basins no thank you (BNM)”.

Between 1,600 and 1,700 gendarmes will be deployed and according to our information, the authorities fear clashes. Some observers also believe that the establishment of a ZAD, a permanent protest camp, is possible.

The basins are dug artificially in the sealed ground. They are filled in part by rainwater but also by pumping groundwater in winter when rainfall is supposed to be abundant. The goal is to then be able to use the water thus retained to irrigate crops in summer, when drought is rife.

400 farmers

The Sainte-Soline basin, whose construction began in early October, is the second of 16 planned by 2027 in the project developed by a group of 400 farmers gathered in the “Coop de l’eau”. They say they want so “reduce direct debits by 70%” summer. It should have an area of ​​16 hectares and could contain up to 750,000 m3 of water. The first is already in place in Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon. In total, the project would cost at least 60 million euros, including 70% of public subsidies.

For farmers, there is no other possible choice in the face of the expected recurrence of drought, due to global warming. These reservoirs would be the essential solution to save crops when water is no longer available in groundwater.

During a previous demonstration against these basins, last March, the FNSEA had published a press release in which it affirmed that “water management is a crucial subject to continue producing and thus protect our food sovereignty”. According to the largest French agricultural union, a ” calm debate » is necessary for “reconcile all uses and the proper functioning of natural environments. » The FNSEA also recalled that “the installation of water reservoirs meets the standards and authorizations regulated by law. »

Dozens of projects

The Deux-Sèvres project crystallizes the local opposition between pros and anti-basins. Water reservoir projects are popping up by the dozens in France and, faced with the concerns expressed by farmers, environmental NGOs point to what they consider to be a grabbing of a rare resource by a minority. “The basins reveal the problem of water sharing or rather water sharingsays Florence Denier-Pasquier, environmental lawyer specializing in water law and administrator of France nature environment. Sharing between nature and human needs, sharing between irrigation needs and those of drinking water but also sharing between the different farmers themselves. »

The associations also believe that the basins mainly benefit a type of intensive agriculture, and in particular for export purposes such as cereals, and not local subsistence agriculture. This is disputed by many farmers involved in reservoir projects.

“Hydrologists have shown that today, the autumn and winter rains are reduced and no longer manage to recharge the water tables.. Due to increases in temperature, soils dry out markedly and rains tend to run off rather than infiltrate. In the end, the renewable water resource decreases”adds Florence Denier-Pasquier, citing a study by the Ministry of Ecology from June 2022.

A point of view moderated by the hydrogeologist Alain Dupuy who heads the National School of Environment, Georesources and Sustainable Development Engineering in Bordeaux. “You have to assess the merits of what I prefer to call substitution reserves rather than bedpans on a case-by-case basis, he said. Sometimes, by withdrawing water in times of abundance, they can allow agriculture and the natural environment to subsist as well as possible when water is no longer available in the environment. »



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