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Paris to plant first ‘urban forest’ on busy roundabout in drive to build garden city

PARIS — Paris will plant its first “urban forest” on a busy roundabout as part of a plan to turn the French capital into a garden city.

This winter, the city will plant 478 trees on the Place de Catalogne near the Gare Montparnasse train station as a flagship project in Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s drive to cut noise, pollution and tackle global warming.

The aim is to have this urban forest up and running by June next year, with a view to subsequently setting up similar sites elsewhere, such as in front of the Paris Town Hall.

The Place de Catalogne roundabout — designed by the late Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill in the 1980s — had for decades been a busy thoroughfare for cars. In recent years it has been transformed into a Dutch-style, bicycle-friendly junction that is also the start of a voie verte or greenway bike lane to the southern suburbs.

“The temperatures one could feel in this little forest will be 4 degrees lower compared to what we could have outside it and so, it will be very pleasant,” Hidalgo said. “There’s also some work on recycling rainwater, and here, too, we can recycle rainwater to be able to water, maintain, allow this urban forest to thrive. So it will really be pleasant.”

The Paris City hall said 25,000 trees had already been planted last winter and in the past two years several Paris streets with schools have been closed to cars and turned into mini-parks.

Planting more trees is a key part of Hidalgo’s second term as mayor, after she built kilometers of bike lanes in her first six-year term.

Paris says it is one of the greenest capital cities in Europe, with the city flanked on either side by the huge, green spaces of the Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes — sometimes dubbed as the “lungs” of the capital.

Paris City Hall aims to have planted 170,000 more trees between 2020 and 2026, and more than 63,000 trees have already been planted since November 2020.

Ms. Hidalgo’s leftist-green coalition has also reduced the space for cars in the city, increased parking fees and is phasing out diesel cars from the city center.

The city’s latest plan is to drive large sports utility vehicles (SUVs) from its center, with a citizens’ vote on this issue due in February. — Reuters

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