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A Drainage Project Reveals the Secrets of a Paris Canal

A brief and recent history of the 10th arrondissement, told in garbage.
A worker inspects trash/treasure found at the bottom of the Canal Saint-Martin.
A worker inspects trash/treasure found at the bottom of the Canal Saint-Martin. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Every ten or fifteen years, Paris goes ahead and drains the Canal Saint-Martin. The canal was completed by Napoleonic order in 1825 to bolster the growing French capital’s supply of disease-free drinking water, but it was last cleaned in 2001. Since then, there have been two major developments around in the canal, in Paris’s 10th arrondissement.

The first is the influx of “Bobos”—what Americans might call “hipsters”—young, educated, mostly well-to-do Parisians who lead decidedly bohemian lifestyles. The area has become a popular spot for new restaurants, cafes, bars, and tourists.