Development threatens France’s great lakes

The wild shorelines of France's biggest lakes risk being turned into urban zones, as the government withdraws a law that has protected them for twenty years, campaigners say.

Attempts to progressively water down the “loi littoral” – a law guarding coastal areas and lakes from urbanisation – has had environmentalists and locals up in arms for years, while developers and investors push for more changes.

The latest dilution of the loi littoral as applied to mountain lakes came at the beginning of August – perhaps timed to strike at a time when most of France is on holiday.

French authorities argue that France’s highland lakes enjoy double protection from the “shoreline” law and an equivalent piece of legislation that guards France’s mountainous regions against development. Hence the latest amendment, aimed at tackling this overlap by revoking the shoreline law for large mountain lakes.

But campaigners see the amendment as a sly attempt to further weaken the protection of lakes. It leaves only a much less effective “mountain law” to guard France’s highland lakes against development.

The mayor of the town of Annecy, on the shore of the famous Lac Annecy, lashed out against the changes saying they open the way to “concreting over the shores of France’s great lakes.”

Environmental groups like Amis de la Terre have long been leading a campaign to protect France’s coasts, lake shorelines and mountainous regions, which they say are under “strong pressure from galloping development and rarely defended by elected officials who belong to the same political family as the developers.”

Goska Romanowicz

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