Concerns in France, as American retail giant Amazon plans to build a massive warehouse close to the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct. UNESCO issued a warning against the construction as it could threaten the nearby World Heritage site. In addition, activists are concerned about the negative environmental and economic consequences the warehouse will have for the region.
The intranational cultural organisation “warned the French authorities of the concerns of civil society”, The Art Newspaper reported. According to the UNESCO convention, the protection of heritage is the responsibility of the “State Party in which it is located.”
Pollution of the Pont
Activists have many reasons to oppose the construction of the 38.000 m2 warehouse, explained Raphaël Pradeau, spokesperson for the French environmental association Attac, to French news magazine L’Obs. “In terms of working conditions, Amazon’s practices are catastrophic.”
Heavy goods vehicles will circulate in the area of the Pont du Gard every 2 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Adare, a local-led organisation, launched a petition that has been signed over 35.000 times via change.org. The group fears that the landscape, agriculture, vineyards, beekeeping and biodiversity will be affected by the new warehouse, their donation page states. The distribution facility will cause a lot of pollution near the Pont du Gard since “heavy goods vehicle will circulate there every 2 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week”, the petition reads.
Apart from the environmental issues, activists and UNESCO argue the appearance of the ancient aqueduct will alter for tourists visiting. The warehouse is planned next to a road that 90% of the site’s visitors use. As a result, the facility would become a “wart” in the landscape, according to activists. Local businesses would also receive too much competition with the arrival of the building.
In a reaction to the critique, Amazon told L’Obs that it employs “more than 11,500 people in France and is proud to offer them a wide range of professional opportunities.” The new warehouse would create 150 new jobs. “In addition, Amazon is developing ambitious projects to protect the environment and achieve carbon neutrality from 2040″, the company stated.
Whether the controversial building plans will result in the construction of an actual building remains to be seen. The battle between the American retail giant and local activists will continue in court in July 2021. It will likely be the first of many court cases, as French workers are against the rise of Amazon. Watch the documentary of French-German broadcaster Arte below to learn more about the French working class battle against the American retail company.