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POLLUTION

Champs-Élysées to ban cars once a month from May

From May 8th onwards cars will be barred from Paris's most famous avenue for one Sunday a month.

Champs-Élysées to ban cars once a month from May
Photo: AFP

The most famous boulevard in Paris, the Champs-Élysées, will be off-limits to cars on the first Sunday of every month starting in May, Paris city hall said on Monday.

The first pedestrian-only day will be May 8th instead of May 1st, a public holiday, when many of the council workers needed to run the scheme will be off work, Mayor Anne Hidalgo's office said.

From then on, cars will be banished from the two kilometre-long (1.2-mile) street on the first Sunday of every month when museums in Paris are also free to the public.

Nine new routes will also be pedestrianised every Sunday and public holiday — adding to the 13 already subject to traffic restrictions under the “Paris Respire” anti-pollution programme.

Although the new areas have not been named publicly. 

The move follows the success of Paris’s first car-free day last September when swathes of the city were closed off to traffic to allow pedestrians and cyclists to take over.

Apart from the lack of cars and the sight of people strolling down the Champs Elysées, one of the most noticeable differences to a normal day was the relative quiet throughout the capital.

The association Bruitparis said measurements showed a three decibel drop in noise levels compared to your average Sunday, which reflects a drop by half from the usual din.

 

Hidalgo, a Socialist, has made fighting the smog that periodically shrouds the French capital one of her top priorities.

The World Health Organization says fine-particle air pollution is responsible for about 42,000 premature deaths in France each year.

 

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POLLUTION

Paris faces legal claim over lead pollution from Notre-Dame fire

Paris authorities have been accused of failing to safeguard the health of people living near Notre-Dame cathedral due to lead pollution from a devastating fire two years ago.

Paris faces legal claim over lead pollution from Notre-Dame fire
A complaint has been lodged over lead pollution in Paris from the devastating fire at Notre Dame cathedral Photo: Fabien Barrau | AFP

Local families along with the Paris branch of the CGT trade union and the anti-pollution association Henri Pezerat, have filed the legal complaint alleging city and public health authorities endangered lives.

“Despite the scale of the fire and knowledge about the risk of pollution and contamination… no precaution in particular was taken by the authorities involved for more than three months after the fire,” according to a copy of the complaint seen by AFP.

It says 400 tonnes of lead from the roof of the Gothic masterpiece melted or were dispersed as microparticles over the French capital during the blaze on April 15, 2019.

“Children (in crèches and schools), neighbours and workers have clearly been exposed to the risk of lead” pollution, the complaint adds. “These facts amount to the crime of endangering the lives of others.”

The square in front of the cathedral was closed again to the public in May this year after tests revealed high concentrations of toxic lead particles.

Several months after the fire, city authorities ordered a deep-clean of schools in the area, while children and pregnant women were urged to have blood tests.

The complaint says the city withheld information from school directors and failed to act promptly. It also targets the police department, the culture ministry and regional health authorities.

The efforts of firefighters ensured the great medieval edifice survived the fire despite the collapse of the spire and much of the roof being destroyed.

But the lead risks delayed work on clearing debris and launching the restoration effort for the landmark, which President Emmanuel Macron wants open for visitors in time for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the blaze, but they have said an accident, possibly caused by a short circuit or discarded cigarette butt, remains the most likely explanation.

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