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ABC News
ABC News
25 Mar 2023
ABC News


More than two dozen people were reportedly injured on Saturday as police clashed with environmental activists protesting a giant agricultural irrigation reservoir being built in rural western France.

Thousands of protesters gathered in the district of Sainte-Soline to demonstrate against the construction of "mega-basins" used for agricultural irrigation.

Video footage from the demonstration showed protesters advancing toward a construction area in clouds of tear gas, as police vehicles burned and people hurled projectiles.

PHOTO: Protesters attend a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines Non Merci" against the "basins" on the construction site of new water storage facilities for agricultural irrigation in western France, in Sainte-Soline, France Mar. 25, 2023.
Protesters attend a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines Non Merci" against the "basins" on the construction site of new water storage facilities for agricultural irrigation in western France, in Sainte-Soline, France Mar. 25, 2023.
Yves Herman/Reuters
PHOTO: Gendarmes fire teargas shells towards protesters during a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines non merci", to protest against the construction of a new water reserve for agricultural irrigation, in Sainte-Soline, France, Mar. 25, 2023.
Gendarmes fire teargas shells towards protesters during a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines non merci", to protest against the construction of a new water reserve for agricultural irrigation, in Sainte-Soline, France, Mar. 25, 2023.
Thibaud Moritz/AFP via Getty Images

Police reportedly detonated more than 4,000 non-lethal dispersion grenades to fend off protesters, some of whom were armed with machetes, axes and gasoline bombs, the Associated Press reported.

France's interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, reported more than 30 people injured in the violent protest, including a police officer and a protester who were both critically injured and transported by helicopter for hospital treatment, the AP reported.

Additionally, 23 police officers and six demonstrators suffered minor injuries, Darmanin said, according to the AP.

PHOTO: A police vehicle burns as protesters attend a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines Non Merci" on the construction site of new water storage infrastructure for agricultural irrigation in Sainte-Soline, France Mar. 25, 2023.
A police vehicle burns as protesters attend a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines Non Merci" on the construction site of new water storage infrastructure for agricultural irrigation in Sainte-Soline, France Mar. 25, 2023.
Yves Herman/Reuters
PHOTO: Gendarmes' stand next to their vehicles burning during a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines non merci", to protest against construction of a new water reserve for agricultural irrigation, in Sainte-Soline, France, on Mar. 25, 2023.
Gendarmes' stand next to their vehicles burning during a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines non merci", to protest against the construction of a new water reserve for agricultural irrigation, in Sainte-Soline, France, on Mar. 25, 2023.
Pascal Lachenaud/AFP via Getty Images

Protest organizers, however, reported approximately 200 injured demonstrators, with about 40 suffering deep cuts caused by police projectiles, the AP reported.

The demonstration, organized by the collective Bassines Non Merci, was held in defiance of a ban on gatherings in the Sainte-Soline district.

Darmanin said the government had deployed more than 3,000 police for the demonstration, Reuters reported.

PHOTO: Protesters attend a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines Non Merci" against the "basins" on the construction site of new water storage facilities for agricultural irrigation in western France, in Sainte-Soline, France Mar. 25, 2023.
Protesters attend a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines Non Merci" against the "basins" on the construction site of new water storage facilities for agricultural irrigation in western France, in Sainte-Soline, France Mar. 25, 2023.
Thibaud Moritz/AFP via Getty Images
PHOTO: Protesters attend a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines Non Merci" against the "basins" on the construction site of new water storage facilities for agricultural irrigation in western France, in Sainte-Soline, France Mar. 25, 2023.
Protesters attend a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines Non Merci" against the "basins" on the construction site of new water storage facilities for agricultural irrigation in western France, in Sainte-Soline, France Mar. 25, 2023.
Thibaud Moritz/AFP via Getty Images

Discussions over water resources have intensified in France, which last year experienced its worst drought on record.

Opponents of the giant artificial reservoir project argue that it is unsustainable and does not support the local community, while supporters say its a way to use water efficiently when needed, especially during times of drought.

PHOTO: Members of the gendarmerie run during a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines Non Merci" against the construction of new water storage facilities for agricultural irrigation in Sainte-Soline, France Mar. 25, 2023.
Members of the gendarmerie run during a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines Non Merci" against the construction of new water storage facilities for agricultural irrigation in Sainte-Soline, France Mar. 25, 2023.
Yves Herman/Reuters
PHOTO: Protestors clash with French gendarmes during a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines non merci", to protest against the construction of a new water reserve for agricultural irrigation, in Sainte-Soline, France, Mar. 25, 2023.
Protestors clash with French gendarmes during a demonstration called by the collective "Bassines non merci", to protest against the construction of a new water reserve for agricultural irrigation, in Sainte-Soline, France, Mar. 25, 2023.
Thibaud Moritz/AFP via Getty Images

A similar protest last October also resulted in injuries.

Saturday's protest comes after weeks of at-times violent demonstrations in France against divisive pension reforms that were adopted without a final parliamentary vote.