What is heard under the Eiffel tower? The silence. An unusual phenomenon in large cities like Paris, but one that is becoming increasingly common now that tourism is banned and millions of people in and around the French capital are homebound.
Some 150 monitoring stations around the Ile-de-France, as Paris and its suburbs are known, have recorded “unusual silence” since the preventive quarantine officially began on March 17.
The agency that measures noise pollution in the region, Bruitparif, released before-and-after maps Thursday that show the decline in decibels.
It is particularly notable around Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, thanks to the fact that most flights were suspended. And next to the freeways, whose traffic decreased to almost nothing when employees work from home. And around neighborhoods full of nightclubs, which are now closed to keep people at a healthy social distance and the virus on the sidelines.
Bruitparif noted a “very pronounced drop in noise emissions of anthropogenic origin” -related to human activity- caused by a “drastic reduction in road, air and even rail traffic, the suspension of construction works and the closure of many activities and festive places ”.
French authorities are struggling to stem the spread of the virus, which has claimed more than 1,300 lives in France and spurred containment measures that put jobs at risk and plunge the economy.
But it has also reduced environmental and noise pollution in one of the most densely populated cities in Europe.
Maps show that even in central Paris, decibels dropped to what would commonly be seen in a suburban park. Some streets had a 90% reduction in sound levels in the past week, and Bruitparif said areas considered “excessive noise have practically disappeared at night.”
Still, there is a sound that Parisians hear much more frequently lately: birdsong.