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Violent Protests Erupt in France Over Irrigation Reservoir



Police Clash with Protesters

Police cars burned, demonstrators threw fireworks and officers fired tear gas into the crowds when thousands descended on a farm in western France to protest against plans for an irrigation reservoir.

Injuries on Both Sides

A protester is in a critical condition and an injured officer has been flown from the scene by helicopter as police clash with thousands of people opposed to plans for a large water reservoir in France. Several people have been injured in the clashes, which have taken place in the western rural district of Sainte-Soline. Two protesters were seriously hurt, including one who is in a critical condition after suffering a head injury, as well as 16 police officers, the local prefecture said. One officer was evacuated by helicopter.

Tear Gas and Burning Cars

Police fired tear gas to repel some protesters who threw fireworks and other projectiles as they crossed fields to approach the construction area in the district. At least three police cars caught fire, television footage showed.

Agriculture Debate

The demonstrators, who have come together despite a ban on gatherings, are opposed to a large water reservoir for farm irrigation. France’s worst drought on record last summer – which was also felt across the UK and Europe – sharpened the debate over water resources in agriculture. Supporters say artificial reservoirs are a way to use water efficiently when needed, while critics argue they are outsized and favour large farms.

Blame Game

Around 3,200 police were deployed for the demonstration, said Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said, who blamed far-left groups for the violence. The heavy police presence included helicopters and officers riding quad bikes. Emmanuelle Dubee, the prefect of the surrounding region, said around 1,000 radical protesters were expected among an estimated 6,000 demonstrators.

Similar Protests and Political Unrest

Similar protests erupted last October and resulted in injuries. The unrest over the irrigation project comes after weeks of demonstrations in France against a pension reform that sees the retirement age rise from 62 to 64. The protests have turned violent since the government pushed through the legislation without a final parliamentary vote, with piles of rubbish set alight on the streets of Paris, riot police firing tear gas and more than 300 arrests. The King’s state visit to France, which was due to begin on Sunday, has been postponed amid the ongoing violence and unrest.



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