Construction of the canal began in 1802 when French leader Napoleon I demanded its construction. At the time, around 550,000 people were living in Paris, and the population growth showed no sign of decreasing. Napoleon hoped that canals bringing fresh water to the city would help prevent the spread of disease. Well…
The Canal Saint-Martin
Where Does it Go?
Starting at Bassin de l’Arsenal by the Seine, the canal travels under La Bastille, the site of a prison that was destroyed during the French Revolution. It emerges close to the Place de la République before heading north to the Bassin de la Villette. There, it merges with the Canal de l’Ourq.
A Tourist Destination
Today the canal is mostly a place for tourists and locals to relax. Wealthy Young Parisians can often be seen congregating on its banks and in nearby cafes while tourists tend to focus on the bridges and landmarks for photo opportunities.
A Symbol of the city
The past two centuries have definitely taken their toll on the canal. Officials now make an effort to empty it every ten to 15 years, removing the waste that has found its way to the bottom. Things were a little different this January though…
The Last Cleanse
Blame The Youth
The area around the Canal Saint-Martin has become famous for its nightlife scene, with young people flocking to the previously quiet district. There were concerns that this would bring even more waste to the waterway – and in 2016 it was time to find out if it was so.
Let The Fun Begin
Workers drained the water from the canal until just 20 inches remained. The fish needed to be evacuated first. For three days, the cleanup team rushed to catch the bream, trout, and carp that live in the waters, subsequently placing them in the safety of another section of the waterway.
The Kingdom Of Garbage
While much of the rubbish revealed at the bottom of the canal was of the sort that you might expect – items such as glass bottles, shopping bags, and traffic cones – some of it left locals puzzling over exactly how such objects had ever ended up in the water.
A Bike Army
“It’s like some kind of weird submarine treasure,” one witness, Marc, told The Guardian. “I just can’t believe the quantity of Vélibs in there. I guess they were stolen and thrown in afterward. It’s bizarre.” Moreover, bicycles weren’t the only strange things to have found their way to the bottom of the canal.
Hope They Had Insurance
It Gets Weirder
Alongside the bicycles and motorbikes were shopping carts, chairs, trash cans, and suitcases, all scattered across the muddy surface. There were stranger oddities, still: a vintage stereo, for example, and even an abandoned toilet.
A Giant Trash Can
Despite this, there is hope for the canal. With the litter problem laid bare for everyone to see, authorities have seized the opportunity to speak out against the problem. “If everyone mucks in and avoids throwing anything into the water,” deputy mayor Celia Blauel told the MailOnline, “we might be able to swim in the canal in a few years.”