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Biggest dust producers identified

77 cities and counties will form committees to deal with problem

Nov 07,2019
The Ministry of Environment identified 77 cities and counties throughout the country, including Seoul, that are heavy contributors to fine dust pollution and will be submitting next month a legislation to cap emissions at factories and plants in those areas.

“We have identified cities and counties throughout the country that have been contributing more than 80 percent of PM2.5 particles in the air,” the ministry said in a statement Wednesday. “They include Seoul and surrounding areas but also cities in the central, southeastern coastal and southern regions.”

PM2.5, or dust particles with diameters less than 2.5 micrometers, is carcinogenic as it can travel through the respiratory tract into the bloodstream and cause strokes, heart disease or lung cancer, according to the World Health Organization. It recommends exposure of no more than a daily average of 25 micrograms of PM2.5.

Last weekend the level of PM2.5 hovered around 70 micrograms in Seoul and Busan, nearly 100 micrograms in Daegu, around 90 micrograms in Gyeonggi, over 120 in Gangwon and around 80 in South Jeolla.

Included on the ministry’s list of heavily polluting cities and counties were: Seoul, Incheon, Goyang, Namyangju, Suwon, Yongin and Hwaseong for the capital city area; Cheonan, Asan, Dangjin, Sejong, Daejeon, Cheongju, Gunsan and Jeonju in the central area; Gumi, Daegu, Pohang, Gyeongju, Ulsan, Gimhae and Busan in the southeastern area; and Gwangju, Suncheon and Yeosu in the southern area.

Although they consist of less than 40 percent of the landmass of Korea, they contribute to 82 percent of PM2.5 particles in the air, according to the ministry’s analysis of fine dust records, and are home to 88 percent of the country’s population as of 2018.

The ministry is submitting next month a sub-legislation to the special act on improving air quality, passed by the National Assembly last April and set to be enacted from April 3, 2020.

The legislation, if passed by the National Assembly, will be enacted along with the special act this coming April.

Once effective, the legislation requires 77 cities and counties to form a total of four committees based on their locations with members including officials of the agricultural, industry and land, ocean and fisheries ministries, deputy mayors of each city and county and air quality and environment experts. The environment minister will head all four.

These committees will be granted the authority to draft five-year plans to reduce emissions in their areas. The plan will include a cap on emissions by factories and plants in the area. The committees will be asked to set the cap using data on the factory’s or plant’s average amount of emissions in the past five years.

The plants and factories in question are those that emit more than 4 tons of nitrogen oxide or 4 tons of sulfur oxide into the air annually. There are around 690 in the 77 cities and counties, the ministry said.

They will be required by law to install emissions-monitoring devices in their chimneys.

The factories and plants will be allowed to buy and sell their emissions rights among themselves, the ministry said. The policy has been in place among some 400 plants and factories in Seoul and surrounding areas since 2007.

Violators of the emissions regulations will be fined.

The legislation will also require residents in the 77 cities and counties to install emissions reduction devices on their old diesel-fueled vehicles. The ministry said it will also be funding local homes to change old boiler systems to newer, cleaner ones.

“If all goes as planned, by 2024, we hope to reduce emissions at some 690 plants and factories by 40 percent compared to what they produced in 2018,” the ministry said.

“We are hoping that this legislation will help more citizens enjoy cleaner air and bluer skies,” said Yoo Jae-chul, head of the environmental policy bureau of the ministry.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]


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