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Romania buys old cars to fight pollution

Romania's government bought 14,451 old cars this year as part of „Operation Jalopy,” a program to encourage citizens to buy new cars that emit fewer fumes and are better for the environment.

The government plans to buy 2,000 cars made before 1995 by the end of this year to decrease the average age of vehicles on the road and fight pollution, the Romanian Environment Ministry announced. Under the plan, the government pays each driver who hands over a vehicle more than 12 years old  3,000 lei ($1,250).

The clunker is broken down for scrap metal and the owner must use the money toward a new vehicle with higher emission standards. The government has handed out about 34 million lei in „Operation Jalopy” this year. New cars bought under the program accounted for almost 10% of total new car sales of 146,000 in the first six months of 2006. The average age of a car on the road in Romania is 13 years, the oldest in Europe, according to the Romanian Environment Ministry.

Romania is working to meet higher pollution standards since it joined the EU this year. Cars in the country are often passed from parent to child and kept running for decades. The oldest models were made by Dacia SA before the company was sold to Renault SA, France's second-biggest carmaker. Old Dacia cars were “replicas” of those times’ Renaults. Many of these old Dacias are still running in Eastern European countries. (Bg)