PARIS (AFP) - Paris officials have put up plastic panels on an iconic pedestrian bridge spanning the Seine river in front of the Louvre in an attempt to stop lovers sealing their passion with padlocks attached to the bridge.
City hall authorities are desperately trying to save the world-famous Pont des Arts and other bridges from damage from the thousands of padlocks left there by tourists and some locals as a pledge to their eternal devotion.
Since 2008, when the craze first began, thousands of couples from across the world have visited the Pont des Arts every year and sealed their love by attaching a padlock carrying their names to its railing and throwing the key in the Seine.
But too much love can be a dangerous thing and the city authorities have been wrestling with the problem of how to halt the phenomenon, which is beginning to take its toll.
In June, police hurriedly ushered tourists off the Pont des Arts when a section of the footbridge collapsed under the weight of the padlocks, which now completely cover the 155m-long bridge.
City official Bruno Julliard said Friday the city had decided "to experiment by placing Perspex panels to replace the metal grilles" to which visitors attach their "love-locks".
"Two have been installed, a third will be fixed in the coming days," he said.
Over Paris's busy summer period this year, romantic tourists to the world's most-visited city attached more than 700,000 love-locks on several Paris bridges, say City Hall authorities.
This has resulted in "a lasting deterioration for our cultural heritage and a risk for visitors' security".
"On the Pont des Arts alone, 15 grilles have had to be removed for safety reasons. Each of these panels were carrying nearly 500kg, more than four times the maximum weight," city hall said.
In a desperate bid to stop the phenomenon, Paris city hall officials in August urged lovers to upload "selfies" instead of attaching a love-lock.
Javiera Pacheco, a tourist from Chile, who was visiting the city with her Italian boyfriend Marco, was not impressed with the new initiative as she placed their "Marco and Javiera" padlock on the bridge.
"You have to keep the love-locks. It's very romantic and Paris is known for that," she said.
For a different reason, the new measures were not welcome for Singh Sharry. The 19-year-old Indian sells padlocks to love-struck couples hoping to leave a lasting monument to their passion in the City of Light.
"It's the end of our little business and, I can tell you, it's the end of tourism in Paris," he complained.