Seoul yesterday sent aircraft over the Yellow Sea to carry out cloud-seeding experiments in an effort to tackle air pollution many South Koreans blame on China.
Air quality in South Korea is generally better than in its giant neighbor, the world’s biggest polluter, which is periodically affected by choking bouts of filthy air and which the International Energy Agency has said uses coal to generate about three-quarters of its energy.
Beijing has been seeking to tackle the scourge, which causes widespread public anger, and a study has found that urban levels of PM2.5 — airborne particles measuring 2.5 micrometers or less considered most harmful to health — had been cut by almost one-third on average over four years.
However, they remain far above who norms and pollution levels in South Korea sometimes spike as the prevailing winds blow PM2.5 particulates — referred to as “fine dust” in the South — across the sea between the two countries.
Many South Koreans accused China when pollution surged for three days earlier this month, and yesterday the Korea Meteorological Administration sent an aircraft to disperse silver iodide, a compound believed to cause rain to fall, over the waters, known as the West Sea in South Korea.
“The experiment is to see whether the technology works and is effective in washing away fine dust,” an agency spokeswoman told reporters, adding that it was the first of 15 such tests planned for this year.
Seoul has “no evidence that fine dust on the West Sea is entirely from China,” she said.
Last year, South Korea shut down five aging coal-fired power plants in a bid to improve its air quality.
However, ruling party lawmaker Shin Ching-hyun pointed out that when pollution levels rose two weeks ago, they were highest on Baengnyeong Island, 200km west of Seoul and the closest South Korean territory to China.
“China’s claim — that it is not entirely to blame for South Korea’s air pollution problem — violates the rights of South Koreans to a healthy environment,” he said.
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