published Monday, March 17th, 2014

Paris takes drastic measures to fight toxic smog

Police officers control vehicles along the Seine river in Paris, Monday, March 17, 2014.
Police officers control vehicles along the Seine river in Paris, Monday, March 17, 2014.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

PARIS — Paris imposed drastic measures Monday to combat its worst air pollution in years, banning around half of the city's cars and trucks from its streets for a day in an attempt to reduce the toxic smog that's shrouded the City of Light for more than a week.

Cars with even-numbered license plates were prohibited from driving in Paris and its suburbs. Around 700 police manned 179 control points around the region, handing out tickets to offenders. Taxis and commercial vehicles weren't covered by the ban.

Police had ticketed nearly 4,000 people by midday, and 27 drivers had their cars impounded for refusing to cooperate with officers.

France has seen exceptionally warm, dry weather this month with little wind, which has trapped car pollution and fumes from seasonal farming activity in the air. France's unusually high number of diesel vehicles is also contributing to the smog.

Environment Minister Philippe Martin said lower traffic and favorable weather patterns were having an impact on pollution Monday, and that the alternate-plates measure would be lifted Tuesday.

It was the first time since 1997 that the measure was taken.

All public transport has been free for four days straight to help deal with the pollution — but that too is set to end Tuesday.

Paris' anti-pollution efforts trail behind those of some other cities.

Athens has had a similar alternate driving ban in place for many years that has reduced pollution and traffic. In Brazil, Sao Paulo employs a complicated license plate-based system that assigns each car a day of the week when it cannot be driven during rush hours.

Berlin has strict rules on what kind of cars can enter the city, and London makes drivers pay a "congestion charge" to drive in the center of town.

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