Picture by Nadir Bouhmouch. Some rights reserved.In 2008, local residents in Redeyef protested over corrupt hiring practices at the mines. Police blockaded the protesting communities in a sort of siege for six months. With violent repression used by Ben Ali’s regime, the events are the longest popular uprising in Tunisia’s modern history and are considered to be the first spark that ignited the 2011 revolution.
The communities in this region still suffer from the extractivist model of development that only regenerates itself through resource pillaging, marginalisation and further environmental degradation. In the past few years, several factories in the area have been occupied by unemployed youth, halting production, and several protests took place to denounce water shortages caused by the phosphate company's excessive use.
In fact, water is frequently cut from this area, sometimes for more than two weeks at a time and particularly in the summer, forcing inhabitants to buy cisterns to collect rainwater. The company drains more than three quarters of the exploited capacity (565 litres per second) of the Oum Laarayes-Redeyef groundwater table to proceed with the grinding, washing and processing of the raw resource with chemical components to enhance its quality and upgrade its competitiveness when sold on the international markets. Later, the used - yet untreated - water is directly discharged on the agricultural land, causing pollution, contamination of water reservoirs and damage to the soil’s fertility.
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