The city of Paris will not go ahead with a plan to fell more than 40 trees near the Eiffel Tower.
The plan to redevelop the tower area in time for the 2024 Olympics would have created tourist facilities near the famous landmark, but also reduced traffic and increased green space. However, Parisians were worried about the fate of trees near the tower, some of them a century or more old.
“We refuse the felling and endangering of dozens of healthy trees, in particular the bicentenary and centenary trees, which are really the green lungs of the city,” reads a petition distributed by four environmental associations, according to France 24. reported.
The plan to redevelop the area around the tower was known as the OnE Paris project, according to RFI. It was reportedly designed by American architect Kathryn Gustafson and championed by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo during her 2020 re-election campaign, according to The Guardian. The plan had several eco-friendly components, including creating more cycle paths and footpaths, planting more greenery, and banning private vehicles on the Pont d’Iéna. However, the original version of the plan would also have involved cutting down 42 trees and threatening the root system of a plane tree planted by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814.
The protection of the plane tree prompted Thomas Brail, founder of the National Tree Monitoring Group (GNSA), to secure himself in its branches and begin a hunger strike.
“It’s a pity that we prefer to focus on a building – an iron monument that does not provide oxygen and does not decarbonize the planet – rather than this poor plane tree that does such a good job,” said Brail told RFI. “These trees are home to birds, bats, insects… The older the trees, the more biodiversity they offer. That’s why we have to keep these old guys.
The petition against deforestation had collected around 140,000 signatures as of June 3.
Paris city officials made several concessions to protesters, first lowering the number of affected trees from 42 to 22, according to France 24. They then said they would examine each tree on a ‘case-by-case’ basis. , according to The Guardian. . However, the designers said it would be impossible to construct three new buildings near the Eiffel Tower, including a ticket office, while keeping the necessary construction six meters (about 20 feet) from trees. Finally, the deputy mayor of Paris in charge of town planning and architecture, Emmanuel Grégoire, said the plan would have to be significantly modified to save the trees.
While the plan called for more green space, opponents questioned the idea of clearing trees to make room for it.
“They create vegetation, but they destroy a lot of it at the same time,” Philippe Khayat of the association SOS Paris, one of the groups behind the petition, told France 24.
Others argued that the age of the trees made them more important.
“This tree is worth 700 newly planted trees,” France Nature Environnement scientific adviser Tangui Le Dantec told RFI of the 208-year-old plane tree. “And that’s the equivalent of 130 to 150 adult trees in Paris. By ecosystem services, I mean the depollution of the atmosphere, soil, water and the cooling effect it has. This will become very important in the coming years with global warming.