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ENVIRONMENT

‘Water is for drinking’ – Vigilante sabotages jacuzzis in French tourist resort

A mystery night-time environmental vandal is sabotaging outdoor jacuzzis at holiday lets and second homes in France, amid rising tensions between tourists and locals at the height of a water shortage.

'Water is for drinking' - Vigilante sabotages jacuzzis in French tourist resort
France is in the middle of a historic drought, with water restrictions imposed in many areas. Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP

At least five outdoor jacuzzis in the area surrounding Lac de Gérardmer in the Vosges area of eastern France, have been punctured by a masked vigilante, who enters the gardens of holiday lets and second homes, and pierces the linings of the spa baths using a drill 

The eco-warrior – who has been spotted on CCTV but covers their face with a turquoise scarf and has yet to be identified – leaves a handwritten message at the scene that reads: “Water is made for drinking! You massacre the Vosges… More seriously, the planet is going bad, wake up!”

The drought situation in the area is so bad that, earlier this month, authorities drew water from the lake, intending to use it to supply the town with water – but it was declared unfit for human consumption after testing.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Water levels at the lake –  the largest natural lake in the Vosges mountain range and a popular destination for tourists – have dropped by 20 centimetres, and it could be pumped for agricultural use for several more weeks if the already long-running drought conditions continue.

One property owner, who was a victim of the eco-vandal told Le Parisien: “We have an individual who, in the middle of the night by breaking and entering, sabotaged the jacuzzi. Always with the same pseudo-ecological message that explains that the planet is going bad and that we must wake up.” 

Mayor Stessy Speissmann condemned the criminal acts, describing them as “inadmissable”, but said it highlighted the problem in a small town that sees its population increase from 8,000 to between 20,000 and 30,000 at peak tourist time.

“We are in the middle of a conflict of use with the problem of water. Some people locally believe that if this resource is lacking, it must be prioritised for residents.” 

A number of residents confirmed the mayor’s perception.

One said: “We, the inhabitants of Gérardmer, are still depriving ourselves of water. And we fill up [their hot tubs] every weekend. It’s ridiculous.”

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Paris officials to run emergency exercise simulating a 50C day in the city

As the climate crisis pushes temperatures ever higher, officials in Paris are preparing a simulation of the day when the mercury tops 50C, in order to prepare the city's emergency response.

Paris officials to run emergency exercise simulating a 50C day in the city

This simulation, which was announced on Wednesday, is set to take place in October 2023, and it would plunge two parts of one arrondissement (which has not yet been decided) into the fictitious scenario to test the city’s capacity to respond to such a crisis. 

The current temperature record in Paris is 42.6C, which was set during the heatwave of 2019, but experts predict that the record is unlikely to remain unbroken for much longer.  

According to Deputy Mayor of Paris, Penelope Komitès, the city wants to be able to anticipate the next disaster.

“[Paris] has withstood various crises in recent years,” she said to French daily Le Parisien. The public official referenced past disasters, such as the flood of the Seine in 2018, Notre-Dame catching on fire, along with widespread protests and social movements.

“What will be the next crisis?” she said.

Public authorities hope to expand upon and move beyond the city’s first “action plan,” which was adopted in 2017.

The heatwave simulation would allow the city to test its emergency response capacity, namely deployment of cool rooms, shaded areas and other measures. It would also allow public officials to gauge and predict the reactions of Parisians amid a disastrous heatwave of 50C. 

READ MORE: ‘Over 40C’: What will summers in Paris be like in future?

“We have survived crises, but they can happen again,” Komitès said to Le Parisien. Her goal is not for the simulation to provoke anxiety, but instead to prepare the city to mobilise in such an event. 

According to RTL, on Wednesday, the greater Paris region also presented its plan to adapt the community “to the effects of climate change”.

Valérie Pécresse, the regional representative, referenced plans for “1,000 fountains” and the creation of “a network of climate shelters.”

Additionally, the region has set a target of increasing its green space by 5,000 hectares by 2030. The targets of this plan would include priority urban spaces: schoolyards, parking lots, squares, as well as cemeteries.

In 2003, the country suffered a historic heatwave that resulted in at least 14,000 heat-related deaths. Since then, France and its cities have begun adapting to rising temperatures by working to increase green space, provide ‘heat

An analysis from the BBC in 2021 found that “the number of extremely hot days every year when the temperature reaches 50C has doubled since the 1980s.”

READ MORE: Trees to trams: How French cities are adapting to summer heatwaves

This will not be the first simulation activity to anticipate or help the public become aware of rising temperatures. 

In 2014, meteorologist Evelyne Dhéliat gave a ‘fake forecast’ pretending that the year was 2050. The temperatures on her map however, ended up being eerily close to those France has seen regularly since 2019.

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