Unearthing Paris’ second river

By María D. Valderrama

Paris, Feb 27 (efe-epa).- It has been almost a century since the Bièvre river saw the light of day in the urban center of Paris but that could soon change as a plan to unearth sections of the historic waterway gains ground.

Perhaps this lesser-known tributary does not evoke romantic imagery of the French capital quite like the Seine, into which it once decanted, but from as early as the 14th century it provided a lifeline for the local industry with tanneries, butchers shops and mills popping up along its banks.

By the early 1900s, the Bièvre had become so polluted that city authorities decided to cover it up and divert it to the sewers.

Nowadays, it is a river in two parts. It flows in the open air through the southern suburbs of Paris before entering a network of pipes in the belly of the metropolitan area with only a few reminders, such as plaques, plotting its pathway at street level.

Over the last 20 years, however, several local councils in the capital region have undertaken projects to bring the river back into view. The latest section of the river to be revived was in the commune of Arcueil, on the doorstep of the city center — the next big challenge.

“We’re going to study how to reopen various sections in Paris, especially in the parks and gardens that follow the historic pathway of the Bièvre in Paris, around six kilometers in total, ” Dan Lert, head of ecology at the city hall, tells Efe.

The Bièvre river is set to empty into the Seine once again starting from this summer, according to the plans to recuperate the waterway, although it will have to be diverted to treatment plants when it rains.

The office of Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has opened a feasibility study for the project, which was rejected earlier this century given its high cost.

Lert says the project has an estimated cost of 50 million euros ($60.3) but insists it is not a whimsical endeavor, but rather part of the city’s ecological transformation, bringing green space and nature to Paris’ streets.

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