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"We must wait until we have learned by experience -perhaps cruel experience- to trust in the state a little less and in mankind a little more." Frederic Bastiat, The Law, 1848.

Photos from Lac de Serre-Poncon, Le Lauzet, Meolans-Revel, Ubaye Valley

Alpes de Haute Provence, Southern France

Mountain Picture Ring

© Copyright (2000-2001) by gd@zel.org, www.nilum.com

Click here to go directly to the description of Mountain Forest Destruction Project

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Pour faire jolie, ils ont crée des "villages fleuris". Scrap cars are collected by the municipalities free of cost. This car is dead and abandonned since more than five years. Seen on the road to "La Blache" in August, 2000. Many mountain hikers who climb the Tete de Louis XVI mountain take this road. Update: this scrap car was removed in early 2002! (but there are many others less public places)
Waste management? Land fill of the municipality Le Lauzet, Ubaye. The waste is thrown into the gorge of the famous white-water Ubaye river. To improve the appearance of the cities and villages the French authorities have created a programme called "villages fleuris" (villages with flowers). Stinks like Potemkin's cities?
This peninsula at the artificial lake Serre-Poncon is located near the earlier village called Ubaye, which was flooded some decades ago when EDF (Eléctricitée de France - until recently a state owned company) constructed the dam. Only the cemetery of Ubaye is left over at the shore of the lake.
Lac de Serre-Poncon retains the Ubaye and the Durance rivers and serves to generate power, helps to avoid flooding in the lower regions, and their high level of minerals, sediments from the calcareous mountains, provides irrigation for the legumes and fruits grown in the Provence, La Crau, and Camarque.
This beautiful peninsula is blocked since end of 1997 by someone whose animals (goats) don't like your smell (odor, odour) -- no kidding!. Update: mid July-2002, this place, in my opinion the most beautiful exposition of the lake, not only because the sun sets very late, was cleaned and all scrap cars including the caravans and mobil-home were removed. A small potato field is all that remains and some empty bottles of beer and some broken glas from broken bottles is at the beach, although I'm not sure if these existed before this place was occupied almost five years ago. Take care where you walk! In 19-Jul-2002, I stepped into a rusty nail in a board which pentrated my sandals, also luckily I was not hurt.
Then suddenly I see two lovely young cats. After closer inspection, I counted seven cats, most of them relatively young. These cats were obviously abbandonned, when the authorities removed the farmer and his goats. Maybe someone is feeding them, but there is nothing for them to hide against rain. The sad story with these cats continues at www.nilin.com/halifax/?c=halifax (in german).
I celebrated the the restoration of free access to this nice spot with a camp fire and pick-nick.
The Dormillouse mountain in the back-ground.
and the dawn celebrated this day zirry red clouds.
What is now history continues to live on the world-wild-web: (In 2002, an official publication of the Prefecture of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, which this place belongs to, explained that the acronym WWW stands for World Wild Web. :-) Take care! Don't enter! Although as far as I know, "La Loi Littoral" (The French law for lake and sea shore access) guarantees everyone free access to all shore lines. Not there! As I said above, the place was liberated, but this page will stay as a testimonial for the wild-west history for as long as there is free speech in this country.
Quote: "Mes bêtes n'aiment pas votre odeurs!", "Vous etes chez moi!" and "Filez!" -- This is my land! Piss off! Lac Serre-Poncon, the wild-west in South-East France?
Information obtained from Monsieur le Maire (mayor) of the village Le Lauzet tells a different story. The "emplacement" would only be preliminary until the municipality found another place for the friendly man (be very careful; don't approach him!!!).
This seems to be the litter place nearby. I've read that litter plastic bottles sold with trinking water amount for over 200,000 tons (200,000,000 kg) of waste per year in France.
The mayor of Le Lauzet confirmed that the owner of the goats which do not like your smell, does neither own, nor rent the land he occupies.
Initially there was only a mobil-home in 1997. Then came three scrap cars and two old caravan (trailors).
and there was a letter box already from the beginning. I'm pretty sure, that could neither rent nor buy any estate nearby at the shore-line, and if I did, the municipality would not allow me install a trailer there. Obviously, some laws do not apply to everyone -- there must be some who are more equal than others - although other laws are exercised by using violence.
Preliminary seems to be infinite in France. The pictures were taken in August 2000, three years after arrival of the chap.
Shore line of Lac de Serre-Poncon
An hour before sun-set.
The gendarmerie building in Le Lauzet village. Looks like Dornröschenschlaf. Their advise: "Pour se baigner -- pour aujourd'hui vous trouverez une autre place" (For today, you'll find another place to take a bath). Yes -- Sir!
Ongoing municipal constructions of tourist lodges, called "Gites" in France.
The famous (previously designated) "Roman" bridge in Le Lauzet (which is not roman at all). In 2003, the designation was changed from "Pont Romain" to "Pont Medieval". The inhabitants of the village Lauzet call the bridge "Pont Latin" R.C. send me the following analysis (in French):
"En principe dans l'art roman l'arc d'un pont ou d'une voute d'église est un arc de cercle. Ce n'est que vers la fin du XIIe siecle qu'est apparu l'art gothique dont l'arc des voutes n'est plus un arc de cercle mais deux arcs de cercles sécants au sommet.
Ceci dit, Il faudrait savoir si une étude archéologique a été faite de ce pont par l'examen de la structure, des matériaux (ciments, pierres, trace de briques ou autre éléments, ...), de la taille des pierres, etc. pour en dater la construction. Il est possible que la forme soit venue au constructeur pour des raisons diverses (hasard, technologique, position particulière de ce pont, ...) et n'est pas suffisante pour la dater.
La seule réponse sérieuse ne peut venir que d'une étude sérieuse menée par des professionnels, donc il faut rechercher s'il existe une publication à son sujet.
Ce que l'on sait avec certitude (monnaies, tessons de céramiques, bois calcinés, ...), c'est que des hommes (romains, ligures, Esubiens, ...) occupaient ou, au moins, sont passés dans la vallée depuis bien avant les romains et que, géographiquement, le lieu du pont était l'endroit idéal pour traverser la rivière à l'abri de toute crue et que du temps des romains il y avait surement déjà un pont."
The bridge crosses L'Ubaye river.
"La Marie" (the mayor's official office) of Le Lauzet is located behind the village church in the center of the village. The postal address is "La Mairie, Attn.: Monsieur le Maire, F-04340 Le Lauzet, France".
This house in the village of Le Lauzet will be transformed to a museum. As can be seen from the construction sign, the owner of the house is "C.C.V.U.".
"CCVU" is an acronym and represents an organization created by the 15 municipalities of the Ubaye Valley. French like acronyms. I believe the acronym stands for "la Communautée communale de la Vallée de l'Ubaye". They have an own web site. Still in 2000, for many months their site was under construction - then the links on the welcome page didn't work. So I'll not make a link to their site called ubaye .com.
The "hotel-cafe" in front of the future museum seems to be closed, although the photo was taken in the middst of the main holiday season. The only business in the valley seems to be the famous CCVU. They have an own, what in internet-age is now called "dead-tree" publication, which is sent to the citizens of the valley at least twice per year. The quality of the paper on which it is printed is very high.
La Séolane des Besses and l'Ailette at sun-set. The photo was taken going East on the road from Le Lauzet to Martinet. This is the only part of the road in the Ubaye valley which is in good condition. Anybody out there calling me a negativist?
Kind of romantic, n'est-ce pas? Anybody out there calling me a waste watcher? What about scrutinizer?
This "passerelle" is closed. The bridge over Ubaye river is much younger than the Roman bridge nearby.
Somehow, the know-how to build bridges was lost and it seems it did not even recover in the 20th century.
I'm quite confident that somebody else will pay for reconstruction. First it must collapse completely, I guess. On the other side of the bridge is a farm, which I'd call "agri deserti", since this bridge is the only access to the farm. The bridge is public and belongs to the responsability of the muncipality of Meolans-Revel.
Just across the road from the passerelle, the information age arrived.
The black cable rolls are marked "Lucent Technologies Optical Cable" (LU), a spin-off of the former American AT&T telecommunication and technology monopoly. The bridge nearby is closed since many years, but fiber-optic communication arrived. Information crosses the globe in milliseconds. Bridges are no longer needed. This is progress, right?
As time goes by ... It seems that nobody showed the fiber-optics workers were to put the litter ... snow will cover it in winter.
These are cuts from the PVC-tubes, which protect the underground LU fiber-optics cables. But don't worry, sooner or later someone will burry or burn the litter cables and tubes. Somewhere, sometime, I've read that burning PVC generates dioxin? Pas ici! (Not here!)
Mountain Destruction Project
written by gd@zel.org, 14-Sep-2000
Update: The destruction was completed in Oct-2002; see photos at Mountain Forest Protection Campaign (MFPC)
Reliable official sources told me - he had this famous glow in his eyes, that this is going to be the amplification station for the optical signals which the fiber cable in the PVC-tubes carry. This station was constructed by telecommunication giant "Global Crossing" (GX), near the place where I found the optical cable and PVC-tube litter; it is located near the passerelle. (Update: GX filed for bankruptcy in 2001. While I don't think that's the reason for their bankruptcy, it might be interesting to know that rumors say that regional authorities required GX to put eight instead of one or two PVC-tubes in parallel into the ground - as compensation for the right to cross public ground - for whatever later use by the authorities.) The underground telecommunication line which goes from France (Marseille?) to Italy (Milano?) spans the Ubaye valley over the Col de Larche. I doubt that the inhabitants of the Ubaye valley real-soon-now get a faster internet connection (Update: they got it through a state subsidy, voted for in early 2002! This is more or less a subsidy for the debt-burdened France Telecom) or that they could make economic use of it. Anyway, there are countless other local problems.
Here on the Northern face of Le Peyron mountain, the municipality of Meolans-Revel plans to construct a new road for big trucks to facilitate transportation of larch (French: Melèze, German: Lärche) tree-trunks, they want to cut in the municipial mountain forest. Only the sun-shine does not need any subsidies in Ubaye. The address of the major in Meolans-Revel is "La Mairie, Attn.: Monsieur le Maire, F-04340 Meolans-Revel, France".
If you want to send them a letter, I'd propose to send it registered with return receipt (D: Einschreiben mit Rueckschein, F: Recommendation avec avis de reception). My experience shows, that is useless to write a non-registered letter, because [probably not only] French authorities often do not receive letters containing any complaint, dissatisfaction, protest, or critics. Anyway, don't expect to get a reply.

How Subsidies Destroy Mountain Forest

In 11-Sep-2000, some private owners of the forest where the road will pass through, two local representants of the ONF (Office National des Forests), and of the municipality of Meolans-Revel jointly visited the forest at North face of the Peyron mountain to inspect the future road. The area is very steep with inclinations of up-to 70%. The new road will have maximum 10% ascent, which means that a long switch-back is needed to climb the slope.

The projected road will cost between 30,000.- Euro and 76,000.- Euro. The exact price is only known after the municipality got corresponding propositions. The gain from selling the wood will be about 45,000.- Euro. So the whole project is economically worthless and does at the same time produce a lot of destruction and will favor erosion.

The planned road does not serve any other purpose than exploitation of wood. So why would they want to undertake this project? The answer is: The European Union will pay 80% of the construction cost of the road. This subvention allows the municipality to make money on their destructive plan. They'll use the money to repay senior debt maturing in early 2002.

This is what ONF told me: Wood price is low. Only Larch wood is still high in demand. The main function of the forest in these expositions is to stabilize the ground. Cutting old Larch trees, which are only pioneer population, will improve the possibilities of Epicea and Sapin to grow, which will stabilize the environment in such critical mountain areas.

In summary, taxpayers in other European nations and France will pay for this road to destruct the forest, which allows the municipality to make a small profit to pay back some debt (which they probably did not have the right to assume in the first place).

If one wants to protect the mountain forest, it escapes my mind, why a road is necessary in order to cut the Larch trees? One could simply cut these trees, let them rott there and avoid any other destruction in this very fragile mountain area - "un equilibre à maintenir" - not here! One solution would be (although I do not recommend it) to use the money of the subsidies for the road directly to repay the municipality's debt - and never again allow them to assume any other debt. Another solution (which I favour) would be to abolish all public subsidies.

The success of this page, first published in Sep-2000: Since Easter 2001, the chainsaws and big trucks cut the road into the forest. Now it is too late to safe the Peyron-forest! Cut first - ask no questions later.

The trees already partly cut where the future word will be constructed. Photo taken 20-May-2001

The photo shows the first part of the new road. At an excursion in 20-May-2001, I got the impression that the new road is not needed to transport the wood trunks.

There is already a network of existing roads, although steeper, which were all used to transport wook in the beginning of the year 2001 from the Montagnac, the forest area located at the north face of Peyron.

"Subsidies, windfalls, and the prospect oc economic opportunity remove the immediacy of needing to conserve. The mantras of democracy, redistribution, and economic development raise expectations and fertility rates, fostering population growth and thereby steepening a downward environmental and economic spiral."

"The startling growth of world population since World War II, with its often destructive impact on forests, soils, and water resources, can be traced yo intervention on a global scale."
-- Quoted from the book "The Souvereign Individual", p394.

Einige Gedanken in deutsch (Some Notes in German)

Ein Leser fragte, was der Zweck von dieser Seite sein soll bzw. wer die Zielgruppe ist?
Mit diesem Artikel moechte ich auf die Gefahren aufmerksam machen, die dem Bergwald in den französischen Seealpen drohen, denn so wie es jetzt aussieht, wird das franz. Forstamt (ONF) das Strassenprojekt genehmigen, solange die Steigung nicht grösser ist als 10%. Die neue Strasse wird den Bergwald an einem z.T. 70%igen Steilhang auf einer, in der Projektion(!) 10m breiten, gemeindeeigenen Trasse durchschneiden, die seit ueber 20 Jahren geplant ist, aber wohl aus Geldmangel nie realisiert wurde.

Ein Anlieger hat bereits bei der Gemeindeverwaltung schriftlich Widerspruch gegen die neue Strasse eingelegt, da er Gefahren durch Erosion und Lawinen erwartet und auch weil der zu erwartente Flurschaden in keinem Verhaeltnis zum wirtschaftlichen Nutzen steht. Die Gemeinde wird diesen Widerspruch wahrscheinlich mit der Begruendung "öffentliches Interesse geht vor" ablehnen.

Die Strasse macht absolut keinen Sinn. In den letzten Jahren wurden mehrere Steilhänge in der Gegend auf diese zerstoererische Weise erschlossen (Gimette, südlich von Les Thuiles, Laverq - Col Meolans, südlich von Martinez). Die Strassen werden nach dem, ca. zwei Jahre dauernten Holzschlag, erfahrungsgemäss nicht mehr gewartet und verfallen - bis zum nächsten Holzeinschlag, ca. 15 Jahre später. Dann wird aber meist eine neue Strasse gebaut.

Zum geplanten Holzeinschlaggebiet existiert bereits ein alte Forststrasse, die auf dem Kataster als "Chemin d'exploitation nr. 22" ausgewiesen ist. Mir wurde vom Forstamt mitgeteilt, dass die alte Strasse ist zu steil für die grossen Holztransporter ist und ein Verlegen der Staemme mit Traktor auf diesem Weg wäre unwirtschaftlich.

Um zurück zur Frage zu kommen: Zweck ist es, die Strasse zu verhindern, um unnützen Schaden zu vermeiden. Die Zielgruppe, die in der Lage wäre, diese Strasse zu verhindern, kenne ich nicht, da ich keine Verbindungen zu Umweltschutzorganisationen habe. Der lokale franz. Alpenverein www.cafubaye.com ist auf diesem Gebiet anscheinend auch nicht tätig oder zuständig, jedenfalls waren auf deren Webseite bisher noch keine Umweltthemen behandelt worden.

Der Peyron ist ein einsames Gebiet und nur ganz selten verlaufen sich Bergsteiger dorthin, obwohl die Aussicht vom Gipfel hervorragend ist. Der Peyron hat also keine Lobby. (Schliesslich gibt es 32 Dreitausender am Ubaye-Talrand, die dem Peyron den Rang ablaufen.) Von der Ortschaft unten (Le Verger/Les Jinquins) sind es 1400 Höhenmeter bis auf den Gipfel. Die neue, breite Strasse wird den Wanderweg kreuzen, was kaum jemanden stören wird.

Das Verhaengnis des Bergwaldes auf den steilen Nord- und Westhängen ist, dass dort Lärchen wachsen.

Der Miss-Erfolg dieser Webseite, erstmals veroeffentlicht in Sep-2000:

In der Osterwoche 2001 starteten die Kettensaegen und schwere Maschinen, um die Schneisse in den Wald zu schlagen. Jetzt ist der Wald am Peyron nicht mehr zu retten!

Oder doch? Bis Ende Mai 2002, hat sich nichts weiter veraendert. Die fetten Baeume entlang der geplanten Piste sind zwar abgeschnitten und abtransportiert, aber es haben noch keine Erdbewegungen stattgefunden. Also bisher haelt sich der Schaden in Grenzen. Es waere ein Erfolg, wenn die Planierung der Piste aufgehalten werden koennte.


"The French don't care much what they are doing, as long as it is pronounced correctly."
A [probably English] proverb, I heard on the radio.
To which I'd say, listen to the sound of Caterpillar and chainsaw.

See also the neighbour community's new road already partly constructed, which cuts another steep mountain forest - La Gimette: www.nilum.com/gimette

Any constructive comments, corrections, additions, and ammendments are welcome!

Mountain [Forest] Picture Links

Mountain Forest Protection Campaign (MFPC) is a non-government non-organization (NGNO) engaged in blocking the destruction of the fragile equilibre, the unique fauna and flora, which the mountain forest created.

Mountain Picture Webring Navigator:

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Created 27-Aug-2000, revised 27-Mar-2003