Scenes of war in Sainte-Soline (Deux Sèvres)

Violent confrontations opposed demonstrators and police forces this Saturday afternoon. The toll is heavy: 24 gendarmes were injured as well as about thirty opponents to the highly contested mega-pond project. Several vehicles were set on fire.

Big fight, this Saturday March 25, 2023 in Sainte-Soline, in the Deux-Sèvres. A thousand opponents to the construction of a huge water reservoir intended to irrigate crops have clashed with the police who blocked their way when they were heading towards this mega-pond.

Molotov cocktails against tear gas

Very quickly clashes broke out. The demonstrators, some of whom were equipped with helmets and guerrilla warfare gear, threw Molotov cocktails at the gendarmes and their vehicles, as well as incendiary devices and fireworks. The gendarmes responded by firing tear gas grenades.
After two assaults, one at the beginning of the afternoon, the other at the end of the afternoon, the toll is particularly heavy. Twenty-four gendarmes were injured, one of whom had to be airlifted to hospital in an absolute emergency, as well as around thirty injured demonstrators, two of whom were in absolute emergency.
In addition, five gendarmerie vehicles were set on fire.

Darmanin: “inexcusable violence”

The Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin, denounced “inexcusable violence” on the part of “extremely radicalized, extremely violent people, including black-blocks, people of the extreme left, the ultra-left (…) this violence is inexcusable.”
For his part, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of France Insoumise, accused: “Enough police violence in Sainte-Soline (…) Without the BRAV (motorized police brigades), without this circus, absolutely nothing would happen other than a march in the fields.

The water war

The Sainte-Soline mega-basin, in the Deux-Sèvres department, is an agricultural water storage project (about 10 ha) intended for crop irrigation. It is filled by pumping water from groundwater. That is why it is highly controversial both by ”small” farmers opposed to this agricultural gigantism and by scientists, including IPCC experts in its 6ᵉ report of March 2023 or Greenpeace.
It is opposed by some 150 organizations that are holding meetings and mobilizations at the site. The mega-pools deprive the surrounding ecosystems of a vital resource and prevent the groundwater from replenishing. In short, it is not a solution to the drought.
At the call of the collective ”Bassines, non merci”, of the movement ”Soulèvements de la Terre” and of the Confédération Paysanne, and of political representatives, a gathering is organized, from March 24 to 26, 2023, where nearly 20,000 people from a dozen countries are expected to oppose these projects and to inform the populations about the long-term damage of these water reservoirs.