French climate activists fill golf course holes with cement, protesting exemption from water ban amid drought

Climate activists in the south of France have damaged lawns and filled holes in golf courses with cement, protesting the exemption of golf courses from water bans as the country faces its most serious dryness of history.

Members of a collective linked to Extinction Rebellion targeted the Vieille-Toulouse club and the Garonne des Sept Deniers golf course in Toulouse, a mainly affluent district, earlier in the week.

The group sabotaged both courses by plugging holes with cement and tearing up pieces of grass.

According to Extinction Rebellion Toulouse’s Twitter account, the group’s intention was “to directly prevent the use of these golf courses and therefore their watering, requiring real control of water withdrawals from the golf courses”.

They added that they wanted to “denounce the grabbing of water by this leisure industry for the most privileged”.

Activists say the exemption is “economic folly” taking “priority over ecological reason”. (Twitter: Extinction Rebellion Toulouse)

Despite nationwide water restrictions and more than 100 French villages suffering from drinking water shortages, golf courses can stay green thanks to a national framework agreement signed between the French Golf Federation and the Ministry of Transition ecological in 2019.

“A golf course without a green is like an ice rink without ice,” Gérard Rougier of the French Golf Federation told the France Info news site.

On average, 25,000 cubic meters of water are needed per year to maintain the lawns of more than 700 pitches in France.

In an online petition, Extinction Rebellion asks for the total cessation of irrigation of golf courses from level 3 of the declared restrictions, and the cessation of exemptions for the authorization to water golf courses.

They called golf a sport “only for the rich”.

“A sector concerning a tiny part of the population seems to enjoy an otherworldly privilege in these times of crisis: golf.”

Éric Piolle, the mayor of the city of Grenoble in southeastern France, tweeted that “the practices of the richest” continue to be “protected”.

According to BBC reports, some constraints remain on the golf course, including the fact that watering must be carried out at night, with no more than 30% of the usual water volume.

One region of the country, Ille-et-Villaine in western France, has banned the watering of golf courses.


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