By Riham Alkousaa
BERLIN (Reuters) – Around 250 Germans protested outside Berlin on Saturday, where the electric car startup Tesla plans to build a gigafactory. Its construction will endanger the water supply and wildlife in the region.
The US automaker announced plans to build its first European car factory in Grünheide in eastern Brandenburg last November.
Politicians, unions and industry associations welcomed the move and said it would bring jobs to the region, but environmental concerns drove hundreds of locals onto the streets on Saturday.
“We are here, we are loud because Tesla is stealing our water,” the protesters shouted.
Saturday’s protest came after a Brandenburg water association warned on Thursday of “extensive and serious problems with drinking water and sanitation” for the proposed factory.
Anne Bach, a 27-year-old environmental activist, said Tesla’s plans, released earlier this month, showed that more than 300 cubic meters of water per hour would be needed to exhaust the area’s diminishing reserves.
“I’m not against Tesla … But it’s about the site; in a forest area that is a nature reserve. Is that necessary?” Bach said.
“In an ecosystem like this, and against the backdrop of climate change, I can’t understand why no other location was chosen from the start,” said Frank Gersdorf, member of the “Grünheide Citizens’ Initiative Against Gigafactory”, a local group supporting the protest organized on Saturday.
The protests by environmentalists in Germany have so far stopped and delayed the plans of large companies, such as the RWE lignite mining in the Hambacher Wald near Cologne, which has become a symbol of the protests against coal.
Saturday’s protest, which Gersdorf and Bach spontaneously developed from a forest walk demonstration with 50 participants, highlighted the deforestation of around 300 hectares in order to build the factory and its effects on wild animals such as birds, insects and bats.
People also protested an expected “huge” increase in traffic on a nearby highway and through the villages.
In addition to the protest across the street, around 20 people carried banners to greet Tesla in their village, and children said, “We are here, we are loud because Tesla is building our future.”
Bernd Kutz, a local from Gruenheide, said Tesla would improve the area, create jobs and give young people opportunities.
“I am here because I do not understand the demonstrators who are screaming and pointing us,” said Kutz. “Why does it always have to be negative?”
(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; editing by Christina Fincher)