Better air quality for Beijingers

BEIJING - Beijingers breathed easier yesterday as traffic restrictions and factory closures came into effect in a last-ditch attempt to turn the often smoggy Chinese capital into a pollution-free venue for next month's Olympics.

BEIJING - Beijingers breathed easier yesterday as traffic restrictions and factory closures came into effect in a last-ditch attempt to turn the often smoggy Chinese capital into a pollution-free venue for next month's Olympics.

On a sunny but still slightly hazy day, the flow of cars was lighter than usual for a Sunday on the city's wide roads, as vehicles with odd licence plates were banned from the streets for the day. Tomorrow even-numbered cars must stay in the garage.

"It's great - today there are far fewer cars on the road and the air quality is so nice. This is good for the children," said 20-year-old Wang Yanna, out for a weekend stroll with her toddler nephew near a busy intersection.

The city's chronic pollution has been one of the biggest headaches for Games organisers, who are banking on traffic restrictions and last-minute industrial cutbacks to bring blue skies and easy breathing for athletes during the Games.

Under the new rules cars are banned on alternate days depending on their licence plate number and most official cars have been impounded. Only taxis and Olympic vehicles are exempt. The government hopes to take around 60 percent of the city's 3,3 million cars off the roads, the official Xinhua agency reported. - Reuters

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