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Rooftop gardens give fresh food and air

Paris is in the middle of a giant project to clear the city’s air by creating urban farms on rooftops and open spaces.

With memories of summer’s stifling heatwave still fresh, it is hoped that plans to plant 30 hectares of gardens will help cool parts of the city as vegetation cuts reflected and absorbed heat in buildings.

It has the added advantage of providing fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables - and even hops for beer and grapevines for wine.

Although about 30 hectares is a drop in the ocean in the 105km2 of Paris, the city has plenty of green spaces and wants more as it is also planning to plant 100ha of greenery on municipal building walls.

The city’s Parisculteurs scheme has more than 60 projects in place or starting and more businesses are coming up with their own plans to help ease the “urban heat island” effect, where cities are warmer than the surrounding land, making for especially difficult conditions in summer.

In the centre, a new batch of 33 projects has been approved and the scheme has so far given a total of 1km of walls covered in hops, a herb and hydroponic garden at the Bourse producing 12tonnes of cauliflower, cucumber, peppers and strawberries, plus a 2,500m2 market garden at Opéra Bastille that has hundreds of hop plants which will be used to make Paris beer in the cellars.

The 33 new projects are intended to produce 1,000 tonnes of fruit and veg, one million cut flowers and 1.3 million plants.

A new aquaponics farm at the Centre sportif Poissonniers will have fish tanks producing four tonnes of rainbow trout, with waste providing minerals for six tonnes of vegetables and strawberries. On the outskirts, BNP Paribas has just opened an urban farm above its offices at Issy-les-Moulineaux and staff are already helping themselves to fresh produce.

Two buildings have rooftop gardens: one is open to all staff to pick-their-own while the other is for workers who subscribe to a scheme to care for the garden and harvest tomatoes, raspberries and herbs.

It is a pilot for further schemes in the city and further afield, working with the community farm group Peas&Love and gardening consultant Mugo, known for its inventive green projects in commercial centres, offices and supermarkets.

Antoine Guibourgé of Mugo said: “We develop expertise in urban farms; cultivating market garden sites as productive farms with a sustainable business model.

“Projects contribute to reclaiming urban land by flora and fauna. Each recreates ecosystems – the biological machines with depolluting functions that serve the city and its inhabitants – and we want to transform towns into a living landscape.”

Paris has also called on would-be gardeners to apply for a permis de végétaliser to create and maintain green space on street corners or other unused land. In return, it will give them a planting kit with seeds.

Deputy mayor Pénélope Kom­itès said Paris would need “one and a half times the city area” to be totally self-sufficient.

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