The capital of France is famous for its many iconic landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum and Arc de Triomphe, just to name a few. However, if eco-conscious French politicians get their way, we may soon associate Paris with a suburban forest that is five times the size of New York City’s Central Park.
The creation of a roughly 5.2-square mile green area north of Paris in the suburb of Pierrelaye-Bessancourt would not only be a fabulous green space for outdoor activities but it is also meant to combat air pollution. Trees remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and release oxygen back out, thus improving air quality, according to the Urban Forestry Network.
Why The French Government Wants To Build A Forest
The city’s air pollution levels have reached a dangerous high, and the air quality is so poor that the City of Lights change its nickname to the “City of Smog.” In 2017, a Parisian yoga teacher even sued the government over the air pollution, claiming that living in the French capital for over 30 years caused her health to deteriorate, according to the BBC.
Not coincidentally, the French government has taken steps in recent years to help reduce air pollution by banning all diesel cars by 2024 and petrol-based cars by 2030, after which only electric cars will be allowed. Cars and motorcycles older than 19 years are not allowed to drive through the city’s center during the weekdays as of July 2016 either.
Paris has also experimented with “car-free days,” when only pedestrians, cyclists, motorized scooters and roller-bladers are allowed in the city center. All the while, the city is ramping up pedestrian walkways and cycling lanes.
Why Hasn’t The City Done Something Like This Sooner?
The idea to build a suburban forest close to Paris has been floated around for the last 15 years, but only recently have politicians gotten behind it.
There have been disagreements on how to best develop the land, which is currently an “unofficial landfill for Parisian trash,” according to Business Insider.
Additionally, CityLab reports how some have pointed out there’s economic disadvantages to planting trees on the land rather than developing it for commercial and residential use. (Still others point out that the suburban forest will entice visitors and tourists.)
There are other obstacles that will have to be overcome before officials can move forward with the project, such as property rights. While the city of Paris owns the majority of the land, there are still 4,000 privately owned parcels of land that would have to be dealt with, CityLab continued. There’s also reportedly a significant number of squatters who are currently occupying the land.
The Future Of The Pierrelaye-Bessancourt Forest
If the plans to build the urban forest do come to fruition, the hope is that addition of trees and plants will become an enviable green space. The proposed layout for the area includes hiking trails, observation points and an equestrian center that is sure to appeal to both locals and tourists alike. The massive forest would also be car-free, so as to keep the pollution created by vehicles low. You can see more information about the creation of the forest, as well as track its progress, on its website.
Instead of Disneyland Paris or the Palace of Versailles, perhaps one day visitors to France will set their sights on the Pierrelaye-Bessancourt forest. And hopefully, cleaner Parisian air will mean they won’t need to wear face masks in order to visit.