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Patdagach Action Camp

D’Hoppe Forest Squatted in Belgium

The forests surrounding D’Hoppe (La Houppe) are threatened from every direction. Most are held by a private owner who exploits and destroys them to quarry sand and build landfills even after he has been legally forbidden to continue. In the city owned forest, 30% of the trees are threatened to be cut; and the land is poisened by untreated sewage from the village. Since the end of April the forest has been squatted and treehoused by a group of people, calling themselves Patdagach, to try halt these ecological disasters. People who are willing to help us in our struggle are more then welcome!

Patdagach Action Week

28 june — 05 july

On saterday 28 june, starting at 2pm, we organise an actionweek in the occupied forest. We want to get as many peaple as possible together to increase the pressure inorder to finally make an end to the destruction of the nature in d’Hoppe.

During this week there will be workshops, actiontraining, infosessions, … and of course lots of actions! The Actionweek ends with a big demo on the 5th of july.

Sleepingplace will be available, but if you have a tent, bring it with you. Don’t forget your thouthbrush & all your friends!

Vegan food will be cooked by the Mobile Actionkitchen ‘Kokkerellen’

For more info, check www.foert.org

How to get to the Treehouse-Camp?

The camp is located next to the village of D’Hoppe/La Houppe (Belgium), 8 km east of Ronse/Renaix along the N48. Busses #21-25 from Ronse all pass the village. From the D’Hoppe bus station (you’ll have to request a stop) continue the direction of the bus and make an immediate right. You’ll see the forest. 200 meters into it there’s a path on the left going to the camp.

Contact (+0032)/(0) 497-63 03 12 www.foert.org

Background Information for the Patdagach Action Camp

D’Hoppe (La Houppe) is a small village about 40 km south of Ghent, on the border of Flanders and Wallonia, in one of the most beautiful areas in Belgium. Its forests provide a habitat for various rare and endangered species of animals. The village borders on the Brakelbos nature reserve, a forest that’s highly protected in recognition of its natural and biological value. Unfortunatly, the vast majority of the forest in La Houppe itself has a private owner, Marcel Fort, an influential and unscrupulous businessman.

Fort is an extremely powerful figure in the community. He operates outside of and above the law, and has been terrorizing the village for years, making a fortune by turning what were once the highest hills in the area into a sand quarry and a landfill.

The Pottelberg, formerly the regions second highest hill, is officially designated as a green area, but in the 80s Fort managed to obtain permission to build a landfill for the "interest of the community." This landfill has been an ecological disaster -- the rivers who have their sources in the area have become polluted (showing, among other things, traces of chemicals that were forbidden in his original permit) and in September of 2001 one face of the landfill collapsed, causing an avalanche of rubbish that covered 10 hectares of forest. Finally, in 2002 his permit was revoked by one of the highest courts in Belgium, and operations were ordered to cease immediatly. Fort, however, soon managed to get around this by obtaining permission to restore the part of the landfill that collapsed, reconstructing it using specially sorted litter. Currently, about 100 lorries a day dump unsorted rubbish in the landfill, and the city council does nothing to stop it.

2km away, in what once was the Mont de Rhodes, the regions highest hill, Fort operates a sand quarry that has completely flattened and devestated the hill. In 1998 his permit was revoked for environmental and safety reasons. In spite of this, quarrying continues on the site, expanding well beyond the original area. Fort is even clearing more forest in preparation of further illegal quarrying. He has also applied for permission to build another landfill in the old quarry, which so far has been denied.

Last summer, Fort began construction of a road through the forest leading to the Mont de Rhodes area. He procured permission for a temporary, unsurfaced logging road, and then dug a three meter wide trench, filled it with rubbish and paved over it. After an action made by locals in 2002, which was brutally repressed by Fort and his son and recieved a lot of media attention, the city council finally put a stop to the construction.

The council however, has made no moves to stop any of Fort’s other illegal operations, even giving their tacit approval by collecting taxes on revenue from illegal quarrying. They also contribute to the local environmental problems by dumping the city’s raw sewage into the forest. Recently,30% of the trees is the city-owned forest were marked. When questioned about this the council explained that the trees needed to be cut to protect the biodiversity of the forest.

This hypocrisy was the last straw for local people who have been fighting to protect the forest, and the village itself, from these ecological disasters. Together with people from other actiongroups the city owned forest is occupied permanently since 27th of April. Tree houses went up and a camp was established. There have also been, and will continue to be, actions (such as blockading the road that lorries use to go to the dumpsite) to increase pressure on the city council and the minister of environment. Since the beginning of the occupation, we get a lot of support from the villagers.

We demand from the city council and the minister of environment: that the landfill be closed and cleaned; that the quarrying be stopped; that the illegal road be removed; that every forest in D’Hoppe becomes officially protected and made public; that untreated sewage is no longer dumped in the forest, that compensaton money for environmental damage is used for protection and restoration of the environment, and that no trees be cut in the forest until there is a general plan for the preservation of the forests of La Houppe