Paris, the city of light, the city of love, world capital of haute couture and gastronomy and now, host city for the 2024 Olympic Games, but currently Parisians are feeling more than a little ratty about their iconic city – and that is the problem – at least one of them. The nation’s capital has become the nation’s rat capital – once a dubious honour attributed to the southern port city of Marseilles, now the title goes to Paris. 6 million or so of the nasty rodents, reckoned to be scampering around the nation’s capital. Packs of rats scampering across the lawns of the Jardin des Tuilleries in broad daylight, or running down the Champs Elysées in between the feet of tourists. Photos in the nation’s press seem to show rats everywhere.
So forget those nice, reassuring « cuddly » rodents in the Walt Disney animation classic « Ratatouille » – these are nasty sewer rats, and though experts say that the estimated six million or so is not a problem, the real problem is that they have all emerged from the sewers. With the recent historic floods in Paris though, the problem has got even worse.
Floods apart, who is to blame for the problem ? Some Parisians put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the city authorities, citing the reduction in urban cleansing budgets from 149 million Euros in 2001 to 133 Million Euros in 2016 – less rubbish collections, with bags lying longer on the Streets and less street sweepers. The city authorities have hit back saying that the rat increase is in part due to restaurant and café owners failing to properly clean their pavement « terrasses » and also Parisian failing in their basic civic duty of properly disposing of their rubbish.
Other reasons for the rising rat rate ? – the various works undertaken along the banks of the Seine river to rehabilitate them for walkers and cyclists – works have destroyed traditional rat habitats and dislodged the rodents. Critics say that a vast « dératisation » programme should have been carried out before any work was undertaken.
Apart from rats, there are also other reasons for Parisians to be ratty – the famous, pay-as-you go bikes, the Vélib, are in short supply and even non-existent in many areas. Launched a few years ago, these municipal, rental bikes (that now seem to be a feature of the urban scene the world over), have proved very popular with Parisians – fo many they have become a vital means of daily transport – So what is the problem?
Urban infrastructure specialists, J C Decaux who ran the bike scheme for the first few years have just lost their franchise to a company called Smoove, who have proved spectacularly incompetent in actually being able to provide the « new generation » bikes they promised, so Parisians will have to wait a few more months until they can get bikes.
No, not a happy place Paris – a train ride or a drive into the capital from the provinces used to go past squatters camps along the tracks or under road bridges. After refugees were cleared from Calais, they all seemed to head down to Paris, setting up camp right within the centre of town – much to the annoyance of the locals. With the visit of the Olympic Committee late last year, all the camps magically disappeared from the city centre, but the city is still ringed with its fair share of squatter/refugee encampments
So a rat-infested city, great swathes of which are currently underwater. Its not quite the time to visit Paris, and us provincials cast an eye Paris-wards, glad that we live her we do, down here in the nothingness of the provinces – well that would be he opinion of the average Parisian – once beyond the city limits there is nothing, because Paris is France.
Well, I love Paris. I’m a regular visitor. , but like all provincials I’d say it’s a great place for the weekend, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live there.