[EDITORIALS] Cleaning up the air

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[EDITORIALS] Cleaning up the air

The Ministry of Environment's measure for improving air quality in the Seoul metropolitan area is an ambitious proposal with a detailed schedule, targets and resources. We agree with the statement that the air quality in the Seoul area should be improved. But it will not be easy to overcome the inconvenience and financial burdens that will accompany the measure.

Seoul area residents suffer daily from serious air pollution. Compared with the average values of other advanced nations, the density of microscopic dust in Seoul's air is 3.5 times as large and the concentration of nitrogen dioxide is 1.7 times as high. Seoul's air pollution is 40 percent higher, on average, then areas outside the capital. It is estimated that the social cost caused by air pollution, including health damage and agricultural loss, is about 8 trillion won ($6.8 billion).

The ministry's plan dictates that pollutants should be held at 40 percent to 70 percent of the present level for the next 10 years. To meet the stated goals 19 cities in the Seoul-Incheon area and Gyeonggi province will be designated as special project areas. The total amount of pollutants permissible in these areas will be set. Also the control on automobile exhausts, which is the main cause of air pollution, will be strengthened in stages. The plan includes provisions to cut gradually the sulphur content of gasoline and diesel fuel.

It will cost 5 trillion to 6 trillion won to implement the plan and additional economic costs related to reducing pollutants are expected. To meet the financial expense, the government will levy an air improvement tax on diesel, gasoline and LPG vehicles.

After the plan for designating the total amount of permissible pollutants is implemented, local governments and enterprises will be required to reduce pollutants according to the amount assigned. Since this will increase their financial burden, business circles are already reacting negatively.

To breathe clean air, people and industries should share the financial burden. Lest the special measure should follow in the footsteps of the "Clear Water Plan," the will to achieve the goal should be consolidated on a pangovernmental level.
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