Anti-fine dust measures to run for 3rd day
Korea claims China source of fine dust; China denies
Seoul and surrounding metropolitan areas will enact emergency measures against fine dust for the third consecutive day, Tuesday, as fine dust is expected to reach a health hazard level.
This marks the first time for the emergency measures to be taken for three days straight. Previously the measures were issued for two consecutive days, once in January last year and another in March.
According to the Ministry of Environment, the levels of fine dust in Seoul and surrounding areas were higher on Monday than Sunday.
Seoul’s average level was measured at 195 micrograms per cubic meter in the afternoon, with Gangseo-gu logging 235.
The daily average level in Gyeonggi Province stood at 153 and Incheon’s was 140, which were nearly six times the World Health Organization’s recommended level of 25 micrograms.
This forced local governments to enforce countermeasures which are taken when the fine dust level exceeds 50 micrograms on average for two consecutive days.
Ten cities and provinces issued the emergency measures, including Busan, Daejeon, Sejong, South and North Chungcheong provinces and North Jeolla Province.
Under the measures, a compulsory odd/even vehicle operations order was issued for state and local government buildings, restricting half of vehicles based on odd or even license plate numbers. The Seoul Metropolitan Government closed down 433 public parking lots and halted operations of 33,000 government vehicles.
In addition, old diesel vehicles weighing 2.5 tons or over, manufactured before 2005, were prohibited from entering the capital.
People were wearing masks in the streets and refraining from outdoor activities.
Regarding the source of the fine dust, a report by the National Institute of Meteorological Research said a good amount of the fine dust and air pollution originated from China.
The NIMR used weather planes to measure fine dust levels in the seas east and west of the Korean Peninsula.
“We don’t have piles of data so we can’t conclude most of the fine dust is from China. However, fine dust levels are much higher in the West Sea compared to the East Sea,” an NIMR official said.
Local experts have said China is responsible for up to 50 percent of the fine dust in Korea on a normal day and 80 percent during severe days. But China has been denying this, and a Chinese government official said during his visit to Korea last month that fine dust in Seoul was generated locally, not from China.
It seems Koreans do not trust the Chinese claim. Over 5,300 petitions have been posted on Cheong Wa Dae’s website last year, calling on the government to take drastic measures to reduce fine dust levels, especially taking actions to prevent Chinese dust from coming over.
An official holds a sign that says “only even-numbered cars may enter” in front of Incheon City Hall, Monday, as the city issued emergency measures against fine dust with compulsory bans on vehicles with odd/even license plate numbers at public organizations.