Thu, Mar 14, 2019 - Page 5 News List

S Korea passes emergency measures to tackle dust

‘SOCIAL DISASTER’:The National Assembly approved a US$2.65 emergency fund to deal with air pollution after PM2.5 levels hit record highs in seven major cities

The Guardian

A woman looks at a view of Seoul shrouded by fine dust during a polluted day in the South Korean capital on Wednesday last week.

Photo: Reuters

South Korea yesterday passed emergency measures to tackle the “social disaster” being unleashed by air pollution after record levels of fine dust blanketed most of the nation in recent weeks.

The South Korean National Assembly approved a series of bills giving authorities access to emergency funds for measures that include the mandatory installation of high-capacity air purifiers in classrooms and encouraging sales of liquefied petroleum gas vehicles, which produce lower emissions than those that run on gasoline and diesel.

The measures would give government officials access to a US$2.65 billion emergency fund, as criticism mounts of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s failure to tackle the crisis.

Air pollution has become a key political issue after the concentration of fine dust particles surged to record levels in many parts of the nation last week, South Korean media said.

Seven major cities had record-high concentrations of dangerous PM2.5 particles, the National Institute of Environmental Research said.

The WHO has warned that air pollution poses a major public health risk due to its links with a host of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.

Seoul has already introduced emergency measures, such as limiting vehicle use, curbing the use of coal-fired power stations and cutting the amount of dust generated by building sites and power plants — but they have had little success.

The crisis has also created friction with China, which South Korean public health experts say is responsible for between 50 and 70 percent of fine dust pollution in the Seoul area, home to almost half the nation’s population.

Experts say the particles, from Chinese deserts and factories, are carried to the Korean Peninsula by prevailing westerly winds.

However, Chinese officials rejected the claims and urged South Korea to first determine if its own factories, power plants and vehicles were to blame.

“If we really want to solve the problem, we may first have to confirm what the problem is. If we don’t find any problem [at home], we must think that it has been from outside,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang (陸慷) said, according to Kyodo news.

Moon, whose personal approval ratings have dipped due to the crisis, has ordered officials to work with their Chinese counterparts on possible solutions, including the use of cloud-seeding to create artificial rain over the Yellow Sea, which divides the two countries, Yonhap said.

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