Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fine Dust Problems in Korea

Korea faces a chronic dirty air problem which makes it one of the most polluted countries in the world. This is not a recent phenomenon and one that continues to grow. China was blamed for a great deal of the problem with the yellow dust from the Gobi desert but in recent years the domestic factors are an equal problem. Korea, China and Japan do meet to discus ways of decreasing the pollution in their countries.

The dust storms that have been a part of the history of the area have been recorded from time immemorial, however, with the industrialization we have an influx of pollutants mixed in with the dust more harmful than in the past. This is true mostly during the spring time of the year. Wearing of masks is now a common sight on the streets of Korea.

President Moon has made clean air one of his important targets. Local sources of pollution include vehicle emissions, industrial sites and power plants, areas where something can be done while foreign sources are beyond Korean control. The government is working to shut down the polluting coal plants and fine dust alerts are sent out to the residents on the dangerous days.

Seoul pushes 'odd-even' number plate anti-pollution car rationing.The Metropolitan Government wants to make an odd-even vehicle number plate use ban mandatory to counter worsening air pollution. Under the ban, vehicles with odd-number plates must not be driven on even-numbered dates and vice-versa. All kinds of ideas have been proffered and the public is concerned in trying to lower the pollution.

The Catholic Peace Weekly in two interviews on the fine dust issue makes clear we  dealing with a disaster and wants the government to help the citizens to breathe freely. At present only the government workers are asked to follow the odd-even number plates ban. This has little to show for results and the free rides on public transportation on the high pollution days is of little help. They do know that back in 2002 when it was mandatory they did see a decrease in pollution.

In one of the largest areas of Seoul about 900 are working in common to decrease the pollution. They promised in 10 different ways to decrease the pollution: use of public transportation, decrease the dust at the construction and industrial sites, plant trees in vacant lots and around homes etc.; they agreed to come together to discuss the results of their efforts.

They take responsibility to water down and clean the roads near the 30 or so construction sites within their district. Their target is to decrease the fine dust to zero. They are working to do the impossible. In the whole district there are over 100 large construction sites. Last year they inspected 370 sites and they exposed 22 sites which were in violation of regulations. Four of them were in great violation and  were charged with a crime. This year they will concentrate on the gases emitted from cars and have a center, free to help discover polluting cars.

The interviewer agrees that it is healthy and a good sign to see the citizens involved in the efforts to clean the city but if force is felt, there is a danger of revolt which will be counter productive and has to be watched.

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