For the third time in a quarter of an hour, under the gaze of a fascinated public, on the quay of the Seine in the 19th arrondissement, Mehdi Bouriah perceives a sharp blow on the rope between his hands, synonymous with a hold to be extracted. Legs bent, the 23-year-old diver reassembles a rusty, algae-covered self-service bicycle in seconds.
Just before, his colleague Théo Richomme, in his scuba, had already extracted, moored to a powerful hook, a stroller and a huge screen submerged 3 meters deep.
“A flat screen is the first time,” laughs Mehdi Bouriah while the other diver comes out of the water covered in algae. “You can find everything, it’s really a waste disposal center below”, comments Théo Richomme who, underwater, could only see a meter away.
In two hours, the six men from the Fluvial cleaning service provider had already picked up around twenty Vélib’ and five scooters from the basin (800 m by 70), already half filling a 15 m3 skip.
And yet, “this is not a sector in which we collect a lot”, assures the president of the specialized company Grégory Pech, according to whom the “less frequented places” such as the Ourcq canal in Pantin (Seine-Saint -Denis), further north, are those with “the most bicycles”.
– Gold statuette or weapons –
When they are not scooters, rarer, or more unusual objects: a safe, a statuette of Buddha in gold or a bag of weapons, says Mehdi Bouriah.
A festive gathering place and therefore tipsy evenings, the Bassin de La Villette rather gives rise to jumping competitions on Vélib, according to these fishermen in a hostile environment, who operate from an old oyster barge.
“It’s so surrounded by dirty people that in a month, there will be so many, it’s not going to stay (clean) like that”, plague Sandrine Macé.
This 53-year-old resident believes that the perpetrators of this incivility “have nothing else to do, unfortunately. It amuses them: we take what we find and put it in the canal”.
Since 2017, however, the basin has once again become a summer swimming spot with the Paris Plages entertainment, which has returned to set up its parasols, deck chairs and cabins from July 9 to August 21. And on Saturday, the collective cleaning operation, called Ménage ton canal, had also taken over an ephemeral swimming spot in the center of the Saint-Martin canal.
Among the lucky swimmers, the deputy mayor Pierre Rabadan, responsible for making the Seine a river where you can swim for the 2024 Olympics, and Dan Lert, in charge of ecological transition.
“There are readings every day,” reassures Dan Lert (EELV), questioned in his black and blue jumpsuit by AFP. “If the water is not of good quality, it is not open for swimming”, which has already happened, he recalls.
“I trust it doesn’t look too polluted,” positive Chantal Decourbe, a 63-year-old resident of Fontenay-aux-Roses (Hauts-de-Seine).
– “Take care” of the channel –
The various cleaning operations carried out on the canal on Saturday enabled the collection of four tonnes of waste, said Vianney Delourme, president of Enlarge Your Paris, a local media outlet behind the initiative.
“It’s the demonstration of everything we can do to take care of this particular environment,” he said in a swimsuit.
Remained in his shirt, Sylvain Raifaud, the president of the Autolib’ Vélib’ metropolis union (SAVM), must face the persistent dissatisfaction of Vélib’ users, who celebrates his 15th anniversary in mid-July, since Smovengo replaced JCDecaux as an operator in 2018.
But also to that of Fluvial Cleaning, paid for its canal sweeps by private operators of scooters and bicycles (Lime, Dott, Tier) but not by Smovengo, while Vélib’ are ultra-majority in the “repeaches”.