Paris falls silent: Sound maps show impact of confinement

U.S. & World

This graph provided by BruitParif on Thursday, March 26, 2020, shows the measure of noise pollution before and after the confinement due to the coronavirus outbreak. The confinement measures in and around Paris have unsurprisingly had an impact in reducing the French capital’s noise pollution levels. Some 150 monitoring stations around Paris and its suburbs, has recorded an “unusual silence” following the lockdown’s implementation Tuesday of last week. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (BruitParis via AP)

PARIS (AP) — What’s that sound beneath the Eiffel Tower? It’s silence — a rare phenomenon in big cities like Paris, but one that’s increasingly common now that tourism is banned and millions of people in and around the French capital are confined at home.

Some 150 monitoring stations around the Ile-de-France — the name given to Paris and its suburbs — have recorded an “unusual silence” since the virus prevention lockdown officially began March 17.

The agency that measures sound pollution in the region, Bruitparif, released before-and-after maps Thursday showing the drop in decibels.

It’s especially notable around Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, thanks to the grounding of most flights. And alongside highways, whose traffic has slowed to a trickle as workers stay home. And around neighborhoods packed with night clubs, which are now shuttered to keep people at a safe social distance and keep the virus at bay.

Bruitparif noted a “very sharp 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 sites and the closure of many activities and festive places.”

French authorities are struggling to slow the spread of the virus, which has claimed more than 1,300 lives around France and prompted confinement measures that are threatening jobs and pummeling the economy.

But they have also reduced air and sound pollution in one of Europe’s most densely populated cities.

The maps show that even in the center of Paris, the decibel levels are down to what you’d normally see in suburban parkland. Some streets saw a 90% drop in sound levels over the past week. And Bruitparif says zones considered as facing “excessive noise have practically disappeared, notably at night.”

Still, there is one sound that Parisians are hearing a lot more of lately: Birdsong.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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