Lonely Planet Writer

Paris' Canal St-Martin set for 4-month cleanup

The beautiful banks of Canal St-Martin are a hip hotspot among travellers and local Parisians alike. Its charms were brought to a wider audience via the film Amelie, where Audrey Tautou wanders whimsically around its banks skipping stones. But popularity has its price, as Canal St-Martin is to undergo a major four-month cleanup operation after the canal has become increasingly dirty.

Graffiti in the trendy area around Canal St Martin
Graffiti in the trendy area around Canal St Martin Image by David McSpadden / CC BY 2.0

The canal has frequently become a rubbish and debris dumping ground, so much so that local residents have protested and organised community cleanup days to keep the canal from being further spoiled. The official operation will see the canal totally drained for four months at a cost of €9.5m (£7m). The office of Paris mayor Anna Hidalgo told the Guardian that, “An important part of these works concerns the locks, but it is also an opportunity to clean the canal of objects that Parisians and tourists throw into the waters of Paris.”

The canal has nine locks starting with the first at Place de la Bataille-de-Stalingrad and ending with the last at Arsenal, where the canal meets the Seine. A waterproof dam is to be put in place in order to fully empty out the canal, and the process will involve retrieving the fish that live in the canal before emptying it. During its last cleanup in 2002, 18 tonnes of fish were taken out of the canal.

The canal yielded up two 75mm shells from World War II during its previous two cleanups in 1996 and 2002. Other objects found in the canal have been bicycles, motorbikes, police barriers, toilet bowls, gold pieces, empty safes, and two wheelchairs.

Canal St Martin made popular in part by the movie Amelie
Canal St Martin made popular in part by the movie Amelie Image by David McSpadden / CC BY 2.0