As Jeff Bezos prepares himself to be launched into suborbital flight in July, below on Earth tech behemoth Amazon is plotting further terrestrial conquests to expand the evergrowing reach of its logistical empire. In an interesting turn, the company surreptitiously applied through local business partner Argan to construct a nearly 410,000 square-foot warehouse in the Provençal village of Fournes, just 3 miles from the much-vaunted Pont du Gard, the UNESCO World Heritage Site designated Roman-era aqueduct.
Construction of the aqueduct likely wrapped up in the middle of the 1st century AD during the reign of Claudius, though the design dates back decades earlier and is credited to Emperor Augustus’s right-hand man; the general, statesmen, and architect Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. The Pont du Gard is a marvel of ancient engineering and spans across the Gard River as three tiers of arches built of mortar-free blocks of Shelly limestone to provide the Roman colony of Nemausus, present-day Nîmes, ample supplies of fresh water. While the aqueduct was no longer functional from the 6th century onward—about a century-and-a-half after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire—it has remained remarkably intact as a toll road and, more recently, a global tourist attraction.
As reported by The Art Newspaper, local residents are up in arms regarding the plan and are worried not only about the incongruous setting of the facility and the implications for tourism-related businesses, but also the potential damage inflicted on the region’s wine industry, agriculture, and biodiversity. Such opposition has fueled the creation of a local association called Adere that now counts over 35,000 petitioners against Amazon’s plans. Additionally, members of the French Parliament are exploring avenues to halt the construction of the new warehouse and UNESCO has expressed its opposition to the development. In defending their proposal, Amazon has noted that the facility will create a whopping… 150 jobs in the area.
To add further controversy to the fire, local council members have been accused of a major conflict of interest through partial equity ownership of a real estate agency actively purchasing land to sell to Amazon partner Argan.
This is not Amazon’s first clash with heritage groups and fervently opposed local communities. In fact, as reported by Reuters just over a week ago, the company’s planned 753,000-square-foot African headquarters that is set to begin construction this month is located on land commemorated by the Khoikhoi and San peoples, South Africa’s first inhabitants.
Who knows where the empire will strike next.