France Travel: Tension With Tourists Amid Drought And ‘Monstrous’ Fires

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Like many of its neighbors, France is feeling the full blow of environmental catastrophes during summer 2022. It is currently experiencing ferocious fires, drought, water restrictions and subsequent cuts in food production—and in some cases, tensions are rising between tourists and locals over water use.

The French Prime Minister has promised to revisit the management of climate change with the utmost importance, as EU countries are sending in firefighters and equipment to help tackle an "ogre-like" fire, of a size and ferocity rarely seen in the country.

Forest fires are common in France during summer but notably in more southern areas. This year, however, 56,000 hectares of forest have already been lost to fire—a figure that The Guardian reported is more than three times the annual average this decade.

More worrying is that fires have been raging in parts of the country that are not normally affected—in Brittany, for instance, Swedish firefighter planes are currently helping out.

A huge fire in the Landiras region, south of Bordeaux, started in July during the driest recorded month in France since 1961—and was hoped to have been brought under control. Tens of thousands of locals and tourists were evacuated from homes and campsites as the fire was aided along by hot winds and record droughts.

However, the fire was never completely extinguished in the peat-rich soil and it reignited, tearing through pine forests—and it is here that many EU countries are helping France fight once more.

As many as 1,100 French firefighters are stationed along "a 26 mile (40km) active fire-front" and are being helped by German, Austrian, Italian and Romanian firefighters who have rushed to aid. This fire is thought to have been started intentionally.

During 2022, a lot of France was ravaged by rapidly dropping water levels across the country, as these Instagram images of major tributaries and lakes show.

France's acute water shortage is causing tension between locals and tourists—eco-warriors in the Vosges area of eastern France are reportedly turning off water supplies to jacuzzis used by tourists in holiday resorts, claiming that it is needed for drinking instead. Another resident said that “we, the inhabitants of Gérardmer, are still depriving ourselves of water. And we fill up [their hot tubs] every weekend. It’s ridiculous.”

The severe weather is likely to heavily impact wine harvests and cheese production. Salars cheese production, from the Cantal region, has been put on hold indefinitely due to the drought and water restrictions, as the cows used to produce the cheese cannot graze.

Tourists traveling around the country should be mindful that many water restrictions are currently in place. In Lyon, in the south, people are being fined €1,500 ($1,537) if they try to fill up swimming pools. And more than 100 towns in the southeast are suffering a complete lack of water (supplies are being brought in by truck), as reported by EuroNews.

France is not alone either—The Guardian reported this as "the worst in both duration and scope than anything [Europe has] experienced in nearly 70 years." Spain's water levels are at 40%, an all-time low, Italy is expecting its hottest and driest year on record, water levels on Germany's river Rhine have fallen so low that key freight routes will likely stop, and the U.K. has officially declared a drought in several parts of the country.