Drought in Pyrénées-Orientales: farmers, elected officials and economic actors defend their access to water

In Perpignan, several hundred demonstrators have challenged a decision of the administrative court which will limit the samples from the Têt river.

by Philippe Gagnebet (Perpignan, Special Envoy)

Under the snow and in the cold, about a thousand representatives of the rural world paraded, Tuesday, January 24 in the morning, in the streets of Perpignan, at the call of the Chamber of Agriculture, of the Departmental Federation of Farmers’ unions (FDSEA) and young farmers (JA), to defend their access to water, increasingly rare and coveted. While the department remains affected by an exceptional drought, with a rainfall deficit of 70 % for the last three months of 2022, farmers, but also local elected officials, craftsmen, managers of ski resorts and even hunters, came to contest a Decision of the Montpellier administrative court of November 29, 2022. This calls into question the water directors in the Têt, one of the three rivers of the Pyrénées-Orientales, because of their impact on biodiversity and the level of water tables.

The court’s decision had been rendered in favor of France Nature Environnement (FNE) which called into question a prefectural decree dating from 2017, indicating that it was possible to take the water from the Têt as long as its flow was superior at 1,200 liters/second in winter, and 600 liters/second in summer. In its judgment, the court considers that “the flow for which it would be possible to take the water from the Têt should not be less than 1,500 liters/second for the whole year”. In the perspective of increasingly hot and lack of precipitation, FNE advanced that “the Têt could be almost dried up, due to intense agricultural samples”. The association also underlined the increase in levies from individuals due to urbanization.

questioning “of ancestral practices”

At the head of the procession, Fabienne Bonet, the president of the Chamber of Agriculture, denounced “an attack by FNE which calls into question ancestral practices and endangers nearly 1,500 farms” – the irrigators who draw In the Têt. Pierre Hylari, president of the JA of the department, expresses his concern, “immense”: “This decision is the consequence of thirty years of immobility and the lack of anticipation of the State on this question of shared management of the Water. “If the agricultural world has received the support of the economic or political environment – the president of the departmental council, the socialist Hermeline Malherbe, crossed in the demonstration the mayor national gathering of the city, Louis Aliot, is that the Têt Irrigate a large part of the department.

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/Media reports cited above.