French climate activists are filling golf holes with cement - here's why

·2 min read
Golf course hole filled with cement
Golf course hole filled with cement

Environmental activists in France have filled in golf course holes with cement to protest against the exemption of golf greens from water bans amid a crippling nationwide drought.

The protesters, who are part of the Toulouse branch of Extinction Rebellion, snuck into two golf courses near the city last week armed with hoes and buckets of cement.

Photos posted on social media show cement-filled holes and greens that have been dug up and vandalised. “This hole drinks 277,000 litres of water a day. Do you drink that much?” reads a sign left on the green.

Much of France has been hit with water shortages this summer, with parts of the Loire river almost completely dried up, prompting authorities to declare a crisis across two-thirds of the country.

About 100 French villages have been experiencing drinking water shortages and the hardest-hit areas have been subject to bans on washing cars, emptying and filling swimming pools, and watering lawns and gardens.

Toulouse golf course
Toulouse golf course

In response to criticism from the left-wing coalition New Popular Environmental and Social Union (Nupes), the French Golf Federation told FranceInfo last week that 700 golf courses employ 15,000 people in France and that the industry has made efforts to reduce its water consumption.

Under current conditions, golf course operators are allowed to water the greens but must reduce their consumption and alter their watering schedule in accordance with the alert level in their area.

'Like an ice rink without ice'

“Without water, the green will die in three days and it takes three months to regrow,” Gérard Rougie, French Golf Federation spokesman, said.

“A course without a green is like an ice rink without ice, it will have to close.”

A French Senate report estimated that in 2002 the water consumption of golf courses in the country was equal to the needs of a city of 500,000 people in one year.

Water bans are decreed nationally but enforcement is at the discretion of regional officials. Some prefectures have imposed tougher restrictions, with Maine-et-Loire in the Loire Valley recently banning the watering of golf greens altogether.