French PM Borne activates inter-ministerial crisis unit in face of 'historic' drought

·2-min read
AP - Ludovic Marin

Faced with an "exceptional drought" and a "historic situation that many territories are going through," France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has decided to activate an inter-ministerial crisis uniit.

According to the Prime Minister's office, the inter-ministerial group will meet later this Friday.

A government source said earlier that "This drought is the most serious ever recorded in our country" with weather forecasts suggesting that the situation could continue for the next 15 days, and become more worrying.

"The exceptional drought we are currently experiencing is depriving many municipalities of water and is a tragedy for our farmers, our ecosystems and biodiversity," the Prime Minister's Matignon office added in a statement.

The current lack of rain has been "exacerbated by the accumulation of successive heat waves which have increased evaporation and water requirements", the source explained.

Anticipating high-risk zones

Faced with this historic situation, Prime Minister Borne has decided to activate an inter-ministerial crisis unit, calling on everyone to preserve water resources.

This unit will enable regular feedback from regional prefects from departments in the most affected areas, to anticipate the possible activation of ORSEC+ water plans for built up areas and to coordinate the necessary civil security measures (water supply to communities, delivery of drinking water, etc.).

The unit will also monitor the impact of the drought on France's energy production and transport infrastructures and on the agricultural sector – particularly livestock.

Borne has asked the prefects to convene the local water commissions, as of next week, in each high risk zone in order to define "the prioritisation of water usage."

93 out of 101 French departments affected

On Thursday, 93 departments across France were subject to water restrictions, 62 of which are considered "in crisis" – the highest level of alert.

The debates are raging on social media about exemptions granted to golf courses, which can still water their greens even when the department where they are located is in "drought crisis".

The consequences are also weighing heavily on national electricity provider EDF, which could further reduce its nuclear electricity production over the next few days, or even shut down a reactor in the south of the country due to the high temperatures in the rivers.