It wasn’t that long ago that Paris had a reputation for… let’s say, being un petit peu mucky. Cigarette butt-covered streets, endless dog poop and piles of uncollected bins were classic Parisian stereotypes. And the murky Seine? Well, it was said to be brimming with E.coli. A quick dip could find you bound to the loo – or worse – for days. The Seine is still actually still so dirty you’re legally not allowed to swim in it.
But recently Paris has been cleaning up its act. In the lead-up to the 2024 Olympics, the French capital is doing everything from cracking down on dirty streets to improving the city’s air quality. And the sewage-filled Seine is also benefitting from Paris’s city-wide clean-up, with the French government confirming that the river will be clean enough to bathe in by 2025.
Back in 2018 mayor Anne Hidalgo set aside a whopping €1 billion to transform the river into a place fit for Parisians to swim. And with 2024 fast approaching, the river clean-up is intensifying. The latest plan specifically targets sewage pollution by building an enormous, 46,000-cubic-metre water tank beneath a public garden on the Left Bank.
Pee and poop often leaks into the Seine when Paris’s sewers are overwhelmed by stormwater. The tank is designed to store excess rainfall and drastically reduce (but, notably, not completely halt) the amount of sewage overflowing into the river.
All of which could mean the Seine is a much healthier river to take a dip in – just in time for several open-water swimming events that are set to take place there during the 2024 Olympics. But far more exciting than that is what a clean Seine could mean for locals and tourists. Recent years have seen city authorities install walkways and temporary beaches along the river. The next step will see swimming allowed at 23 locations (some of which are in the city centre), further adding to the Seine’s exciting new lease of life.
Now read more about Paris’s plans to become Europe’s greenest city by 2030.