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Rome Curtails Traffic to Fight Air Pollution

Jean-Pierre Lescourret/Getty Images(ROME) -- The air quality was so bad in Rome on Thursday that officials banned many of the exhaust spewing cars and motorcycles from the city for the next two days.

Only cars with even numbered license plates were allowed into the city along with cars, motorcycles and scooters that have strict anti-pollution devices on them, as well as electric and hybrid cars.

The exemptions include anyone driving to a wedding or a funeral.

On Friday, only vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers will not be allowed to circulate. Anyone found driving with the "wrong" plate number is liable to a fine of 150 Euros (about $200).

Rome has been battling air pollution all year. Smog levels exceeded limits set by European laws some 56 times this year -- including a recent six-day stretch.

Rome was one of 46 Italian cities which exceeded the safety limits for over 35 days this year. Thirty of these cities are in the Po valley in the north of Italy, where the situation gets so bad so frequently that authorities have no other remedy but to curtail traffic for a day.

Italians know that the high smog levels this year are not helped by the unseasonably warm fall weather. Rome's Mayor Gianni Alemanno, who has always been critical of the effectiveness of alternate license ban on traffic, told reporters Thursday that the warm weather was to blame for forcing the city to take this action. He said he hoped that this was just a temporary measure and that a more long-term plan to reduce traffic and pollutants could be introduced shortly.

Most Romans blame a poor public transport system and limited metro system on why they are forced to use their private vehicles. New "green-transport" projects continue to be drawn up for more electric buses and car and bike sharing, but the city is already short of funds, and new austerity measures expected to be announced next week are unlikely to help moves to improve environment-friendly systems.

With this winter's weather expected to remain balmy, what may finally force Italians to leave their beloved cars and scooters at home will be further government austerity measures which are expected to seriously curb personal spending.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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