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ENVIRONMENT

In Pictures: See how Paris plans to transform the Champs-Elysées

Paris will give the famed Champs-Elysées a makeover ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games by planting trees and increasing pedestrian areas, the French capital's officials said on Wednesday.

In Pictures: See how Paris plans to transform the Champs-Elysées
The city of Paris' plan for the widening of the Champs Elysée by adding a pedestrian ring around it (Credit: Ville de Paris)

The French often call it “the most beautiful avenue in the world” but activists complain that traffic and luxury retail have turned it into a noisy and elitist area shunned by ordinary Parisians.

“We need to re-enchant the capital’s most famous avenue, which has lost a lot of its splendour in the past 30 years,” the mayor of the capital’s 8th district Jeanne d’Hauteserre told reporters.

“It’s a reduction of the space for cars, to be clear, because that’s how we need to envision the city of the future,” socialist Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said.

The plan is in keeping with other efforts by the city leader to squeeze cars out of Paris and make the city more green, a push that has divided residents with critics saying her policies go too far too fast.

The master plan for the Champs Elysée, including the widening of the area around the arc (Credit: Ville de Paris)

But supporters have lauded the former presidential candidate’s efforts to reduce pollution and increase green areas in the densely populated city that can become unbearable when increasingly frequent summer heatwaves hit.

A map showing where trees, flowers, and gardens will be planted (Credit: Ville de Paris)

Around the Arc de Triomphe, which perches atop the Champs-Elysées, the plan is to widen the pedestrian ring surrounding the monument.

And at the bottom of the two kilometre (1.2 mile) long avenue next to the Place de la Concorde, the “Re-enchant the Champs-Elysées” plan will revamp the gardens. 

An artist’s rendering of the plan for the “Square Marigny” (CREDIT: Ville de Paris)

“We will create a hectare and a half of green spaces and plant over a hundred trees,” deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said.

Paris will spend 26 million euros ($27.5 million) in the lead up to the Olympics on the works set to begin within weeks.

An artist’s rendering of the ‘revamped’ gardens at the end of the Champs Elysée (CREDIT: PCA-STREAM)

The terraces near the top of the avenue favoured by tourists will also be reworked by Belgian designer Ramy Fischler, who will strive to “preserve the identity and personality” of the area, he said.

The Champs-Elysées was first laid out in 1670 but was given a revamp by Baron Haussmann, the architect behind the transformation of Paris under Napoleon III in the mid-19th century.

Proposed green space at the end of the Champs-Elysées (CREDIT: Ville de Paris)

Over the centuries, the avenue has been the stage for the high and low moments in French history, hosting celebrations and commemorations as well as protests, notably the violent Yellow Vest movement.

An artist’s rendering of a round point along the avenue after the project has been finalised (Credit: Ville de Paris)

It is also used as the route for the Bastille Day military parade, which celebrates the French republic and its armed forces on July 14, as well as the finishing point for the annual Tour de France cycle race.

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ENVIRONMENT

French riviera: Unesco tsunami warning for Marseille and Cannes

Unesco has announced that the Mediterranean - including the French cities of Marseille and Cannes - will be at risk of tsunamis within the next 30 years, and therefore has included it in its tsunami protection program

French riviera: Unesco tsunami warning for Marseille and Cannes

The risk of tsunamis in the Mediterranean Sea is real – on October 16th, 1979, a tsunami, caused by a landslide, hit the coast of Nice and killed a dozen people. More recently, the Greek island of Samos in the Aegean Sea was hit by a tsunami in 2020.

But the climate crisis and rising sea levels mean that experts fear that in the future they will no longer be rare events along the Mediterranean coast.

Unesco has therefore announced that it will be adding thousands of communities to its Tsunami Ready Plan, including the French cities of Marseille and Cannes.

Experts fear that tsunamis in the Mediterranean could reach up to a metre in height and are almost guaranteed in the next 30 years.

According to Unesco’s calculations, “there is a 100% chance” that tsunamies will occur in the Mediterranean “over the next thirty years.” Therefore, the UN organisation has called for public authorities to institute their multistep programme, which would encourage awareness, warning, and prevention mechanisms for at-risk coastal communities. 

The preparedness program seeks to ensure that these cities and towns, like Marseille and Cannes, will have the necessary response mechanisms in place by 2030.

The Tsunami Ready program, which has already been piloted in dozens of communities across the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean regions and was prepared by Unesco experts, establishes twelve indicators to be respected by the communities concerned. This means that Marseille and Cannes will be expected create plans for identifying tsunamis threats and build community awareness and preparation for how to cope with tsunamis.

The twelve readiness indicators are shown in the graphic below:

Communities must meet all 12 indicators, which cover Assessment, Preparedness, and Response, will be recognized as ‘Tsunami Ready’ by the UNESCO/IOC.

Tsunamis are usually caused by seismic activity (78 percent of them) – like the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 that killed over 210,000 people, but 10 percent are also caused by volcanic activity and landslides, like the tsunami that hit the Pacific island of Tonga in January. Meanwhile, the rare 2 percent are caused by meteorological activity.

However, the increased concern for tsunamis along France’s Mediterranean coast is in part due to rising sea levels (resulting from the climate crisis) and the need to better monitor underwater volcanos.

Rising sea levels can lead to an increase in the power of tsunamis – up to tenfold. In some parts of the world, such as Macao, scientists estimate that  tsunamis will have twice their current impact by 2050.

Even a tsunami of 50cm high can do a lot of damage – what sounds like a small flow of water is actually capable of lifting a car and depositing it several dozen meters away.

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