Canal Saint-Martin’s hidden treasures

'Summertime on the Canal Saint-Martin' Loic Lagarde, Flickr CC 2.0

'Summertime on the Canal Saint-Martin' Loic Lagarde, Flickr CC 2.0 - Credit: Archant

Workers in Paris are cleaning the Canal Saint-Martin for the first time in 15 years and have already uncovered an assortment of oddities.

The dredging of the Paris canal is attracting scores of on-lookers as they crowd the footbridges to get a better look at what’s been hiding in its murky depths. The canal was last cleaned in 2001 when an unbelievable 40 tonnes of rubbish, a few old cars and even a couple of shells from World War One were hauled out.

City workers in Paris began work on Monday by draining 90,000 cubic metres of water into the River Seine. Before any of the rubbish lurking in the brown sludge below could be exposed, the canal was drained to just below 20 inches of water so the 4.5 tonnes of fish living there could be removed safely. The removal team had just three days to remove all of the fish and transfer them to another part of the canal before it was completely drained today.

In the last few years the canal has become somewhat of a social hang-out for what the Parisians call “Bobo’s”, more commonly referred to as a “hipster” in UK. This may help to explain the sheer volume of junk that has been found in the canal so far as these young, wealthy urbanites have perhaps been using the canal as dustbin.

The final inventory of what has been removed still hasn’t been completed, but judging from pictures of the debris at the bottom of the canal, it’s going to be a long list. So far we’ve seen supermarket trolleys, a vast assortment of chairs, a motorbike; swarms of Vélib hire bikes and even a gun.

These uncovered discoveries are an interesting insight into Parisian life – clearly dumping your hire bike in the canal is preferable to returning it.

The project is said to be costing the city 9.5 million euros (£7 million) and the canal will remain drained for three months.

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