Zone to Defend

Zone to Defend or ZAD (French: zone à défendre) is a French neologism used to refer to a militant occupation that is intended to physically blockade a development project. The ZADs are organized particularly in areas with an ecological or agricultural dimension,[1] notably in the permanent blockade village which helped to defeat the Aéroport du Grand Ouest, a proposed airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, north of Nantes. However the name has also been used by occupations in urban areas, for example in Rouen,[2] and in Décines-Charpieu.[3] One of the movement's first slogans was 'ZAD everywhere' (French: Zad Partout) and though there are no official figures, in early 2016 there were estimated to have been between 10 and 15 ZADs across France.[4]


The acronym "ZAD" is a détournement of "deferred development area" (from French: "zone d'aménagement différé").[5] In 2015, the French term "zadiste" (English: Zadist) entered the 2016 edition of Le Petit Robert dictionary as "a militant occupying a ZAD to oppose a proposed development that would damage the environment."[6]


Appearing in France in the early 2010s, the term was first popularized during the opposition to the airport construction project in Notre-Dame-des-Landes.[7] The ZAD movement has its origins in challenging large infrastructure projects in defense of the environment, local people's right to decide the future of their territories (at the price, if necessary, of conflict with state power) and the rejection of the capitalist economy. In France, the most famous antecedents of the ZAD movement are the Larzac struggle (1971–1981),[8] the protests against the proposed nuclear power plant at Creys-Malville, in Isère (1977), and at Plogoff in the 1970s and 1980s.[9]

The ZADs have multiplied in France after the failed eviction of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes commune in the autumn of 2012.[10] One of the first to be set up after the failure of the eviction of the ZAD was the ZAD Bouillons farm, near Rouen, occupied against a real estate project by Auchan beginning in the winter of 2012.[11] In addition to Notre-Dame-des-Landes ZAD, the best-known cases are those of the opposition to the Sivens dam project in Tarn where the activist Rémi Fraisse was killed by the French police,[12] at the proposed Center Parcs project in the forest of Chambaran in Isère and more recently against a nuclear waste storage project called Cigéo (French: Centre industriel de stockage géologique) in Bure.[13][14]

In other countries there are projects similar to the ZAD concept, such as the occupation of the Hambach Forest in Germany, the No TAV movement in the Susa Valley in Italy and the Grow Heathrow squat protesting against the expansion of Heathrow Airport in London.

Notable projects

Site Department Opposed to Status
ZAD L'Amassada Aveyron Construction of electricity substation 2014-
ZAD Bure Meuse Expansion of existing nuclear waste storage facility 2015-2018
ZAD Moulin Bas-Rhin Proposed motorway in Strasbourg 2017-2018
ZAD Notre-Dames-des-Landes Loire-Atlantique Proposed airport (cancelled) 2009-
ZAD Roybon Isère Proposed Center Parcs development 2014-
ZAD Testet Tarn Proposed Sivens dam (cancelled) 2011-2015


The ZAD de l'Amassada at Saint-Victor-et-Melvieu, in the Aveyron department, was set up in December 2014 to oppose the construction of an electricity substation required by RTE (Réseau de Transport d'Électricité) to distribute the electricity generated by renewable sources, mainly wind turbines.[15] 'Amassada' means 'assembly' in the Occitan language.[16]

There was a 'windy week' in 2016, in which more cabins were built on the terrain of 7 hectares, with people coming to help out from other ZADs such as Bure, Roybon and the Susa Valley. As a way to slow down the progress of the project, 136 people have become individual owners of plots over 3,300m2 of land and thus would have to be bought out individually by RTE, a subsidiary of EDF (Électricité de France).[17]

RTE obtained a declaration of public utility for the project in June 2018, which meant they could evict the squatters. Then in January 2019, the site was given an eviction order and warned that they would be fined 2000 euros for every day that they stayed. A police raid in February resulted in the arrest of the five people on the site, with other people making sure it was not evicted.[15] Before their trial in July, two of the five have been forbidden from entering the ZAD and three from Aveyron.[16]


The ZAD at Bure, in the Meuse department, protests the expansion of a nuclear waste storage facility known as the Meuse/Haute Marne Underground Research Laboratory. Every year, the French nuclear energy industry produces around 13,000 cubic metres of toxic radioactive waste (in other words, 2 kg for every French person or enough to fill 120 double-decker buses). Subject to state approval, all this waste would be stored underground at Bure from 2025 onwards.[14]

Since 2004, there has been an anti-nuclear Maison de la Résistance (House of Resistance) in the centre of Bure acting as headquarters for the protests. Some land in the forest of Mandres-en-Barrois, which would be destroyed by the building plans, was occupied in 2015.[18]

At a demonstration in 2017, the police used a water cannon and fired tear gas canisters and stun grenades.[19] There were 30 wounded demonstrators, of which three were hospitalised. One of them, a 27-year-old man, was struck by an exploding GLI-4 grenade on his foot. It made a hole 13 centimetres long and up to 3 centimetres deep.[20]

In 2018, the occupation at Mandres-en-Barrois was evicted. Thirty people had been living there and they retreated to the Maison de la Résistance. The Minister of the Interior at the time, Gerard Collomb, said "We do not want there to be places of lawlessness in France."[21]

After the eviction, there were calls to resquat the site and a large police presence remained on site to counter this threat.[22]


The ZAD du Moulin was established in 2017 to resist the building of the A355 motorway also known as GCO (French: Grand contournement ouest) near Strasbourg in the Bas-Rhin department. Eight huts were built along the proposed 24 kilometres of the motorway, which was intended as a bypass to reduce congestion on the A35 which dissects Strasbourg. The costs were slated to be over 500 million euros.[23]

The ZAD was evicted by 500 police in September 2018. Members of the European Parliament Karima Delli and José Bové had joined the protestors in solidarity with their struggle to stop the road. Delli was sprayed with tear gas in her face and mouth by the police and fell unconscious. Bové stated "This violence is unacceptable."[24]


ZAD Notre-Dame-des-Landes (also known as ZAD NDDL) is the most well-known 'Zone to Defend' in France. Located in the Loire-Atlantique department near to Nantes, it is a very large mostly agricultural terrain of 1,650 hectares (4,080 acres) which became nationally famous and has resisted several concerted attempts by the French state to evict it.[25]

The squatters joined the long struggle against an airport, the Aéroport du Grand Ouest (AGO). It was announced in 2018 that the plans for the airport were cancelled and also that that the squatters would have until spring to leave.[26] In April 2018, a largescale eviction operation began as the French state tried to regain control of the autonomous zone.[27] After 10 days (April 19), the police had fired 11,000 projectiles.[28]

The eviction was halted on April 26 and said it would be frozen until at least May 14. The truce came about as representatives of the ZAD negotiated for legal recognition for 28 projects.[29] Some projects agreed to file individual claims, whereas other refused to participate in the process.[30] On Thursday, May 17, the eviction operations resumed.[27]


The ZAD at Roybon, Isère, between Lyon and Grenoble, was created to oppose the proposed construction of a Center Parcs on the Chambarand plateau. Environmentalists had opposed the project since 2007, represented by the group 'For Chambaran without Center Parcs' (French: Pour les Chambaran sans Center Parcs) or PCSCP.

The project would have built almost 1000 cottages in the forest. Plans were halted in December 2016, when the Court of Appeal in Lyon stated that two of the three orders permitting construction were illegal.[31]

The court agreed with environmentalist concerns regarding wastewater processing from a site with a maximum capacity of 5,600 people and also how the water table would be affected, with 76 hectares of wetland under threat. The court did not agree that the potential loss of protected species outweighed the potential creation of 600 jobs. The owner of Center Parcs, Pierre & Vacances, announced that they would appeal the decision.[31]

In 2018, the ZAD had several buildings including the Marquise and Barricade Sud. The thirty inhabitants were planning to construct a strawbale house and were growing vegetables and farming animals.[32]


The demonstrations to protect the biodiversity of the wetlands in the area threatened by the proposed Sivens Dam resulted in the ZAD du Testet, which existed from 2011 until 2015. It was evicted several times and resquatted. In 2014, botanist Rémi Fraisse was killed by a stun grenade fired by police and the following year the dam was cancelled.[33]

See also


  1. "A ZAD born in the fields near Agen", Reporterre, 16 December 2014
  2. "A day on urban Zad Rouen – evicted Friday morning", Reporterre, 7 November 2014
  3. "In Lyon, the first expulsion ZAD ... but the second still resists", Reporterre, 11 January 2014
  4. "Zones to Defend: developers face a new constraint",, 3 February 2016
  5. "How the word "Zadist" was built in the current language", Le Figaro, 7 February 2015
  6. Le Petit Robert 2016
  7. "The country slingshots against the "unnecessary" projects", Le Monde, 30 June 2013
  8. "Notre-Dame-des-Landes is not the Larzac (even if it looks like)", Rue89, 17 November 2012
  9. "Notre-Dame-des-Landes dream of a solution to the Plogoff", L'OBS, 3 August 2013
  10. "In ZAD to another overview of environmental conflicts", 24 October 2015
  11. "The militants of Notre-Dame-des-Landes are trying to spread their movement", 10 May 2013
  13. "Notre-Dame-des-Landes inspired other protests", The Cross, 2 August 2013
  14. Stothard, Michael (14 July 2016). "Nuclear waste: keep out for 100,000 years". Financial Times. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  15. Serdic, Lucas (7 February 2019). "Cinq interpellations ce jeudi matin sur la "ZAD" de l'Amassada en Aveyron". La Depeche. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  16. Lassus, Valérie (12 February 2019). "Contre l'éolien industriel, la Zad de l'Amassada s'organise pour durer". Reporterre. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  17. Myriade, Pierre M (2016). "Voleurs de vent, semeurs de tempête". CQFD. 147. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  18. Barral, Anne-Laure (6 July 2016). "Bure dans la Meuse : l'autre ZAD ?". France Info. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  19. Burrows-Taylor, Evie (16 August 2017). "Protesters clash with police at anti-nuclear demo in France". The Local. AFP. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  20. Goument, Raphaël (18 August 2017). "Manifestation à Bure : "Mon pied a été déchiqueté"". Liberation. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  21. Pommier, Sébastien (22 February 2018). "Evacuation de la ZAD de Bure: mais à qui appartient le Bois-Lejuc?". L'Express. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  22. "La tension monte à Bure, future ZAD nucléaire ?". Ouest France. 18 April 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  23. Caravagna, Léo (7 February 2017). "Strasbourg : une ébauche de ZAD contre le projet de grand contournement ouest". Le Figaro. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  24. Moreau, Caroline (11 September 2018). "Evacuation de la ZAD anti-GCO : la députée européenne Karima Delli victime de gaz lacrymogènes". France 3. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  25. Willsher, Kim (9 April 2018). "French police fire teargas to expel anti-capitalist squatters". Guardian. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  26. Willsher, Kim (17 January 2018). "France abandons plan for €580m airport and orders squatters off site". Guardian. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  27. Barroux, Rémi (16 May 2018). "A Notre-Dame-des-Landes, de nouvelles évacuations redoutées". Le Monde. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  28. Kerinec, Moran (30 April 2018). "Les gendarmes ont déversé une quantité record de grenades sur la Zad de Notre-Dame-des-Landes". Reporterre. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  29. JAUNET, Christophe; WAJDZIK, Arnaud (25 April 2018). "Notre-Dame-des-Landes. Matignon accorde une trêve à la Zad". Ouest France. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  30. G, S; K, G (11 July 2018). "ZAD: The State of Play". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  31. Valo, Martine (16 December 2016). "Center Parcs de Roybon : l'arrêt du projet confirmé en appel". Le Monde. AFP. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  32. Kerinec, Moran (5 July 2018). "Le tour de France des Zad : Roybon, la vie dans les bois". Reporterre. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  33. "France halts Sivens dam construction after protester's death". Guardian. AFP. 31 October 2014. Retrieved 5 May 2019.


  • Le dernier continent, documentaire de Vincent Lapize, À perte de vue & Réel Factory, 77 min, 2015.
  • Le tarmac est dans le pré, documentaire de Thibault Férié, Point du jour, 52 min, 2013 (diffusé en octobre 2013 sur France 3).
  • Des tracteurs contre des avions, documentaire de Christian Baudu, Canal automedia NopubNosub, 31 min, janvier 2013.
  • Notre-Dame-des-Landes, au cœur de la lutte, documentaire de Pierrick Morin, 70 min, mars 2012.
  • La résistance respire, long métrage de Roxane Tchegini, Terre éveillée, 2015.


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