In an effort to combat air pollution, the préfect of Haute-Savoie, Pierre Lambert, signed a decree to forbid the use of traditional fireplaces in the Arve valley.
The beautiful Alpine valley of Arve in the eastern French département of Haute-Savoie is reported to be the most polluted valley in France and the prevalence of fireplaces is held responsible for this situation.
The Arve Valley in Haut-Savoie is set to be a fireplace-free zone. Photo: AFP
Pierre Lambert said in an interview for the radio station France Bleue in 2017 that they were causing up to 80 percent of the pollution in winter in the area.
ATMO, a local environmental organisation, backed up this claim, stating that “fireplaces contribute up to 70 percent of the fine-particles emission, whereas the industry and transport respectively represent 12 percent and 16 percent”.
Traditional fireplaces are a crucial selling point for many holiday homes.
“Many cottage owners highlight in their advertisements exquisite pictures of traditional Savoyard fireplaces,” said Muriel Auprince from Coll’Air Pur, a residents association fighting against air pollution.
“Tourists enjoy a cosy log fire. I am not really looking forward to getting rid of it,” Jean-Luc, the owner of a bed and breakfast in Saint-Gervais, told Le Parisien.
The decree forbidding the use of traditional fireplaces will come into effect on January 1st, 2022. Forty-one towns in the Arve valley will be affected by this directive.
Since 2012, the French government has been urging residents to modernise their heating systems and get rid of open fires, which are both polluting and inefficient.
For that purpose, the “Air Bois” fund has been set up and offers grants of up to €2,000 for the replacement works.
By Jean-Baptiste Andrieux