April 18. 2024. 1:46

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French police clash with protesters opposed to reservoir plans


A police officer and a protester were both seriously injured in clashes that erupted during an unauthorised demonstration in opposition to the construction of a water reservoir in western France for farm irrigation.

To repel protesters who were hurling fireworks and other projectiles while crossing fields to reach the Sainte-Soline construction site, police used tear gas. Television footage showed that at least three police cars were set on fire.

Emmanuelle Dubee (prefect of the region) stated that at least 6,000 people had participated in the march. This defied a ban on protests at a site where a similar demonstration took place last October.

Gerald Darmanin, Interior Minister, stated that one officer and one protestor were in critical condition. He added that their lives were not at risk.

Darmanin said that seven protestors were hurt and that 24 officers were also injured. Darmanin blamed the violence on approximately 1,000 far-left activists. He said that disturbances had begun in nearby areas prior to Saturday’s violence. Twelve people were detained by police.

According to authorities, around 3,200 police officers were deployed in the demonstration. Some of them were on quad bikes and helicopters. Darmanin stated that stun grenades were used as a repellant to protesters.

After weeks of protests in France against a pension reform, the government has passed the legislation without any final vote.

France’s worst drought last summer intensified the debate about water resources in Europe’s largest agricultural sector.

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Artificial reservoirs can be used to conserve water and are supported by supporters. However, critics call them mega-basins. They are too large and favour large farms.

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