Dating back to the beginning of the 1930’s, the allotments of Aubervilliers, also known as “les jardins des vertus” now face partial destruction to make way for an aqua-centre for the 2024 Olympic games that were attributed to the city of Paris.
The Games are used to transform Seine-Saint-Denis, to the North and East of Paris, with new infrastructure and transport links, allowing the attribution of the Olympics as a justification to rebuild France’s poorest administrative department. Unemployment is high among its 1.6 million inhabitants, crime and social difficulties rampant. It has also been hit hard by the Covid-19 virus with infection and mortality rates well above average when compared to other French regions. The investment is ambitious, the department will benefit from a 2 billion euros cash injection.
Authorities claim that it will create thousands of jobs, new housing and brand new stations that will be part of the Grand Paris Express to connect the area with automated trains running every 2-3 minutes. It remains to be seen how the billions invested will see people’s lives radically changed, if at all.
For some the impact of the decisions are felt immediately. The association “Jardins des Ouvriers D’Aubervilliers” will see a significant part of their terrain reduced. The aqua centre that will be built next to the allotments features 3 swimming pools, including a 50 meter long olympic one and a solarium plus a hammam. A large part of the allotments will be razed to allow the construction of the large center. So the gardeners are surprised and angry that some part of the land they cultivate has to disappear. While they do agree that the area could benefit from a sports centre they also wonder about the usefulness of a solarium. Nature and green spaces are already hard to come by in this poor, built up area, they claim.
But the battle has been lost despite the many efforts to stop the destruction. Diggers and excavators have been hard at work to clear the area from the makeshift cabins and sheds that have accumulated over the years, laying the land barren. Land that was used for nearly a century to grow vegetables and that fed generations of those who worked it.