“The machines arrived yesterday evening (Monday) and the work started this morning” in Sainte-Soline, confirmed to AFP Thierry Boudaud, president of the Coop de l’eau, a group of 400 farmers who carry out this supported project. by the State, intended to build vast reserves to allow irrigation in summer, thanks to the pumping of surface water tables in winter.

Nothing has come so far to disturb the activity of the diggers. The “basin” of Sainte-Soline, nickname given by the opponents, is the second of the 16 reserves of several hundreds of thousands of m3 which must see the light of day in this department – a first has already been put into service.

The beneficiaries of the reserves have committed in return, in a protocol signed in 2018, to adopt practices geared towards agro-ecology. Their detractors, on the other hand, see it as a “leak forward” from the “productivist” model.

During the rally on October 29, some opponents had managed to briefly force the gates of the site, before being repelled by some of the 1,500 gendarmes deployed on the site. Demonstrators and police had deplored dozens of injuries, a handful of them having been hospitalized.

According to the Coop de l’eau, “it was necessary to repair a hundred barriers brought down by the demonstrators” but this “will not affect the calendar”, which provides for the commissioning of the reserve in the spring. 2024.

“The firmness has paid off, no ZAD (zone to defend, editor’s note) has settled,” commented Tuesday in the entourage of the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin. Six gendarmerie squadrons, or 400 to 500 gendarmes, were maintained around the site.

After the demonstration, the opponents had built watchtowers on land located two kilometers from the site, but made it clear that their objective was not to organize a ZAD. On the other hand, they had demanded a moratorium from the government.

Jean-Jacques Guillet, one of the spokespersons for the “Bassines, non merci” collective, told AFP that he was not “really surprised by this resumption of work”.

“The state persists in wanting to go through with force when this project is absolutely incoherent, it is not the right method,” he added. “We are going to implement what we have announced, that is to say organize a new rally which will be of an even larger scale.”