The environmental reforms in Paris: city plans to make the Seine suitable for swimming

    07 Dec 2021

    Paris plans to make the Seine river suitable for swimming by 2024 through the construction of a huge reservoir, according to Bloomberg CityLab.

    The city now has a 19th-century sewer system that combines rainwater and sewage. Therefore, during heavy rains (which are becoming more frequent due to climate change), a mixture of rainwater and products of human life flows into the Seine. Of course, this leads to the infection of the river with many dangerous bacteria.

    In the early 1990s, the situation was ten times worse. During the governance of Jacques Chirac managed to reduce the level of pollution of the river significantly. Chirac even promised to make the Seine safe enough to swim in.

    Since then, the water in the river has become cleaner and, in particular, the number of fish species has increased significantly, but swimming is still prohibited. Sports swims allow the most here. For example, this summer, 19-year-old professional swimmer Arthur Germain, son of Mayor Anne Hidalgo, swam across the Seine from the mouth of the Le Havre to the source. He covered more than 770 kilometers in 50 days. Thus, the athlete tried to draw attention to the problem of river pollution.

    In 2017-2016, the city began to block traffic on the waterfront and equip the city’s sandy beaches. A closed bathing area has even been built on the closed St. Martin canal, which, however, is being closed as pollution increases.

    By the 2024 Summer Olympics, Paris plans to build a 46,000-cubic-meter underground reservoir to store rainfall and prevent contaminated water from leaking into the Seine. Within 24 hours after the downpour, the accumulated water from the storage will be gradually pumped into the general sewerage system.

    The reservoir is planned to be located under the Plant Garden near Austerlitz Station. Its construction will cost about 1.4 billion euros.

    According to the municipality’s estimates, 100,000 cubic meters of sewage enter the Seine every year.

    At the same time, Paris will conduct a small experiment to purify water with the help of reed floodplains, which will be planted in the Boulogne forest. The reed is expected to filter rainwater contaminated with contact with highways.


    Paris plans to turn the Champs Elysees into an “unusual garden”

    Now the Champs Elysees is even more polluted than the ring road in Paris, and three-quarters of passers-by are tourists.

    After the 2024 Summer Olympics, the city of Paris plans to carry out a major reconstruction of the central avenue of the Champs Elysees, The Guardian states.

    “It will be another unusual garden,” said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. According to plans, the space for cars will be halved. Instead of lanes, sidewalks will be built and many trees will be planted.

    The reconstruction project is being developed by PCA-Stream under the direction of architect Philippe Chiambaretta. According to him, the street, which suffers from pollution, motoring, tourism and consumerism, should be transformed into an “environmentally friendly, attractive and inclusive” space.

    The Champs Elysees stretches for 1.9 kilometers, from Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. The Consent Square itself is being reconstructed before the Olympic Games, and the reconstruction of the Champs-Elysées is expected to be completed by 2030. The project will cost 250 million euros.

    The Champs Elysees Committee has previously complained that the legendary avenue has “lost its grandeur” over the past 30 years: “It is often called the most beautiful street in the world, but those who work here every day are not sure.”

    The name Champs Elysees comes from Elysium from Greek mythology – a paradise in the afterlife. A wide avenue from the XVIII century has traditionally been a place for walks and picnics.

    Now there are expensive shops, showrooms and restaurants, and the cost of commercial rent – one of the highest in the world. Of the pedestrians who walk the streets every day, 72% are tourists and 22% are employees of local offices. Every hour, 3,000 cars drive along the six-lane avenue, and this is mostly transit traffic. As a result, the Champs Elysees is even more polluted than the Paris Ring Road.

    It will be recalled that in Paris, the squares near the famous monuments are also being turned into “urban forests”.


    Gardens and groves will be planted near the sights of Paris (project)

    Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has unveiled a project to turn the area around several famous monuments into “urban forests”, Le Parisien reports.

    Abundant vegetation will be planted near the Palais de la Ville, the Opera Garnier, the Gare de Lyon and along the Seine.

    Yes, in front of the Hotel de Ville plan to plant pine trees. Turn the square in front of the opera house into a cherry orchard – now there is a parking lot for tourist buses.

    This will change the usual architectural look of Paris, in particular, the trees will cover the old facades.

    According to the plan, the “islands of freshness” should reduce the temperature in the city. The city government would like about half of Paris to be planted with vegetation by 2030 – a variety of options, from new parks and gardens to green roofs.

    Anna Hidalgo, in particular, proposes to plant miniature gardens in the parking lot. There are also plans to build green areas in the yards of all schools, as the temperature there reaches 55 degrees in summer.

    She is proud that during her death, Paris traffic is reduced by 5% annually. At the same time, the area of ​​highways is decreasing.

    Currently, green spaces cover only 9.5% of Paris. This is the lowest figure among European cities. For comparison, in London green areas make up 33% of the area, in Madrid – 35%.


    How has Paris changed in the six years of Anne Hidalgo’s governance?

    The municipality of the French capital has a policy that encourages cycling and walking and makes it difficult to travel by car.

    Anne Hidalgo is the first woman mayor of Paris in the city’s history. She was re-elected mayor of the French capital on June 28. More than 50% of voters voted for her in the first round.

    Let’s get acquainted with Time article: newspaper recalls what Hidalgo has achieved in the previous six years.

    Environmental friendliness and sustainable urban development are becoming increasingly important. After all, cities, occupying only 2% of the world’s land area, consume 78% of the world’s energy and produce 60% of all carbon, according to the UN. The policy of the Paris City Hall shows awareness of this responsibility.

    Yes, Hidalgo has created almost 1,400 kilometers of bike paths, and plans to expand the bike network in the future. At the same time, it removed thousands of parking spaces and completely closed several important roads to traffic.

    The city has created a map of energy efficiency of houses and has already modernized about 50 thousand of them.

    Hidalgo has made a number of bureaucratic building codes more flexible, such as allowing residents to plant trees in their backyards, which used to require a lot of permits.

    During the coronavirus pandemic, Hidalgo took the opportunity to build another 50 kilometers of bicycle lanes in Paris, which became known as the corona bike paths.

    When the city began to emerge from the lockdown in mid-May, Parisians found that it was no longer possible to drive, for example, Rivoli Street, which stretches from Tuileries Park to Place de la Bastille. This route also passes by the Hotel de Ville, where the municipality is based.

    “I often ride my bike from home to work in the administration, and there are no cars, only bicycles and pedestrians. Suddenly, such a quiet space was formed there, “Hidalgo said.

    The idea that her team plans to implement in the future is the concept of a “15-minute city”. It is assumed that the infrastructure – public transport, shops and schools – should be within 15 minutes walk from home.

    Hidalgo also has plans to transform the city into the Olympic Games to be held in Paris in July 2024. The pools along the banks of the Seine will continue to function as public locations after the Games, and the cleaned river itself will be suitable for swimming.

    The department of Seine-Saint-Denis, which is adjacent to Paris and is one of the poorest areas in France, is facing a construction boom: there are plans to build an ecological Olympic town and aqua center. The network of high-speed electric vehicles will also be expanded.

    At the same time, Hidalgo terminated its € 100 million sponsorship deal with oil and gas company Total and refused to support the Olympic Games at all from hydrocarbon companies.

    Of course, not all Parisians support Hidalgo’s policy. The day after the author’s meeting with her, thousands of Uber drivers and private taxi services staged a protest against the municipality’s anti-car program.


    Paris plans to become “one of the most cyclist-friendly cities in the world”

    The city plans to triple the number of bicycle parking spaces and build 180 kilometers of bike paths in five years.

    The Paris authorities are investing 250 million euros to upgrade the cycling infrastructure and expand the network of bicycle paths. The French capital intends to become “one of the most cyclist-friendly cities in the world,” Archdaily reports.

    The five-year city project will increase the presence of bicycles and provide safe and interconnected routes for passengers and pedestrians. From now until 2026, the city will expand its routes and add 180 kilometers of new bike paths. Cyclists will also have three times more parking spaces – 180 thousand instead of the existing 60 thousand. The city will also invest in improving the infrastructure around the main connections between the suburbs and the city. In addition, changes in traffic rules and increased police control are planned.

    Such plans came after a significant number of Parisians became interested in cycling during the pandemic instead of traveling by transport. Today, citizens make almost a million cycling trips a day without proper infrastructure. Bicycle paths in the city are common to cars and bicycles, separated by paint on the road, rather than real physical barriers, which increases the risk of accidents.

    In May 2020, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced plans to encourage the use of bicycle paths and buses, creating more space for pedestrians and cyclists and, conversely, reducing the number of cars in the center.

    Cities across Europe have implemented cycling infrastructure as part of their urban planning. For example, Amsterdam is considered one of the most cyclist-friendly cities in the world. The capital of the Netherlands still continues to build cycling infrastructure. In 2019, the city announced a new plan for 2022, aimed at improving bicycle parking and existing infrastructure. In Berlin, although the city is not a leader in the European list of cycling cities, a new plan for bicycle “superhighways” is currently being implemented.


    In Paris, cars were limited to 30 km / h

    As of August 30, the speed limit is 30 km / h throughout Paris, according to the municipality of the French capital.

    Exceptions are the ring road – there is a limit of 70 km / h; the Boulevards of Marshalls (a boulevard ringing that duplicates the ring road from the inside) and a number of through highways, such as the Champs Elysees and the Avenue de la Grand Arme – they are allowed to drive 50 km / h).

    Until now, the limit of 30 km / h has already applied to 60% of the city’s streets.

    This measure is aimed at improving traffic safety and reducing noise. The mayor’s office cites the following indicator: reducing the speed will reduce the total number of injuries on the roads by 25% and the number of deaths by 40%. Thus, in the event of a collision with a car moving at a speed of 50 km / h, the risk of death of a pedestrian is 80%, and at a speed of 30 km / h the risk of death is reduced to 10%.

    Also, reducing the speed limit by 20 km / h halves the noise level near the roadway. WHO considers noise pollution as the second most dangerous environmental health hazard after air pollution. Constant noise disturbs sleep, causes stress and irritation, which, in turn, leads to depression and cardiovascular disease, and, consequently, premature death.

    The speed limit is based on the results of a poll conducted by the Paris City Hall last fall. Most of the more than 5.7 thousand respondents supported the new speed limit. In particular, among Parisians, 59% were in favor of speed limits, and among residents of other regions – 36%.

    Half of those polled supported the restrictions because it would make the streets safer. Noise reduction is important for every fourth.

    In addition, the mayor’s office notes, the speed limit allows you to organize public space in a different way. If cars drive 20 km / h slower, this frees up an average of 20 to 50 cm of roadway for sidewalks, landscaping or bike paths.

    Old cars with high levels of toxic emissions have been banned throughout the Paris metropolitan area since June 1.

    Earlier, Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced the closure of part of the center of Paris for cars in 2022.


    Why do city dwellers need bike paths and sidewalks? Read the explanation here.

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