Between Lot and Garonne, the jacquerie of the “workers of the lake”

Ecologists do not want, market gardeners dream “for 30 years” and dig day and night, despite a veto by the state, for the future Lake Caussade (Lot-et-Garonne) irrigates, a day may -being, their thirsty plots.

The sun declines in this beautiful afternoon of February on a wooded valley, adjoining Saint-Pierre-de-Caubel, charming little hamlet, near the confluence of the Lot and the Garonne.

In this sanctuary of biodiversity, nothing can stop the twenty or so structural gear rented for 300,000 euros by forty peasants determined to lead the site “to the end”.

Not even the gendarmes who, on January 23, gave up the seals on the gears to prevent work, illegal, facing a barrage of 300 farmers very reassembled.

A month later, the darkness does not discourage the backhoe loaders who are still struggling to clear 20 hectares of fat and fertile clay.

Yvan Duceu, 35 years old, a small farmer and a member of the collective of farmers-diggers, is determined to continue with the support of the agricultural union Rural Coordination, “of all the citizens, and the elected ones”. “We dig until midnight, take advantage of the good weather”.

Work on the future lake of Caussade, in the Lot-et-Garonne, 21 February 2019 (AFP / Archives - MEHDI FEDOUACH)

Work on the future lake of Caussade, in the Lot-et-Garonne, 21 February 2019 (AFP / Archives – MEHDI FEDOUACH)

When the relief arrives at 18:00, the dike is almost completed, and we can already imagine instead of the huge crater surrounded by forest, the future lake Caussade.

On paper, Caussade is an artificial reservoir of some 920,000 m3 of water to water 350 hectares of plots on about twenty farms. All without an ounce of concrete.

It is here, among others, that the shoe pinches, objected Philippe Barbedienne, director of the ecologist association SEPANSO: “they made a pile of earth which with heavy rains can leave in big wave of mud, with risks for populations”.

“Artificial lakes are everywhere in the region,” says Patrick Franken, 50, president of the Rural Coordination (agricultural union majority in Lot-en-Garonne) and leader of the sling of the “workers of the lake”.

Aerial view of the site of the future Caussade lake (AFP - MEHDI FEDOUACH)

Aerial view of the site of the future Caussade lake (AFP – MEHDI FEDOUACH)

The prefectural veto is “a decision more political than rational, Caussade is too close in the time and space of Sivens”, he adds. Sivens, in neighboring Occitania, is a name that sadly evokes that of Rémi Fraisse, environmental activist, killed in 2014 by a grenade of the gendarmerie, during a demonstration against a dam project.

“Caussade, it's not a massacre, it's the reasoned use of a wetland,” adds Luc Dicher, 65, an arborist who “made plum”, in this watershed of Tolzac, tributary of the Garonne whose artificial lake “would, according to him, to regulate the flow”.

What about biodiversity? ask the environmentalists. “Nature will quickly resume its rights, to make a nice site where we will picnic”, wants to believe Patrick Franken who digs relentlessly, after his day on the 700 ha he shares with his brothers.

– “A dirty file” –

Ecologists and peasants come together on one point: Caussade is a legal imbroglio, created by the State which, since then, by the voice of the Minister of the Environment François de Rugy, asked the defenders of the project to work on an “alternative solution” respectful of the environment.

“A dirty file for us because we do not like to make war on farmers galley,” sighs Philippe Barbedienne. From the very beginning, in September 2018, his association and France Nature Environment (FNE) filed a motion to suspend the site.

In this sanctuary of biodiversity, nothing can stop the twenty or so structural gear rented for 300,000 euros by forty peasants determined to lead the site

In this sanctuary of biodiversity, nothing can stop the twenty or so structural gear rented for 300,000 euros by forty peasants determined to lead the site “to the end” (AFP – MEHDI FEDOUACH)

They were opposed to a first authorization “litigious” according to them, issued by the prefecture, June 29, 2018, “despite technical advice unfavorable, inter alia, the agency of biodiversity” who fears for “50 types of threatened species and their habitats “.

On ministerial injunction, October 15, a second prefectural decree denies the first, and withdraws the authorization. The Chamber of Agriculture of Lot-et-Garonne ignores the veto. “Better, a report of November 29 clearly suggests that it is the initiative of illegal work,” said the boss of SEPANSO who filed a complaint.

“Outlaw methods, despite court decisions and measures, late, taken by the state”, plague this ecologist.

Justice is on its way but “whether they stop today or tomorrow, it's too late, the damage is already done,” he adds, “7,750 feet of tulips of the woods and 250 to 500 feet of birder hail “, were sacrificed on the site of Caussade.

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