Seoul launches fine dust control tower

Shoppers wearing face masks walk through an alleyway during polluted weather in Seoul on March 20, 2019.
PHOTO: AFP

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said Sunday that it will establish a new body under Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon to fight worsening particulate pollution in the nation's capital.

Under Park's direct supervision, a body encompassing 11 departments and four state-run agencies under the municipality, as well as 25 district offices in Seoul, will be in charge of drawing up and implementing countermeasures to reduce dust pollution.

The control tower will go into operation at 4pm on days when fine dust emergency measures are expected to take effect. It will mainly give instructions and oversee the implementation of the measures.

Emergency dust reduction measures come into force between 9am and 6pm on any day after the average concentration of PM 2.5 -- ultrafine particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter -- exceeds 50 micrograms per cubic metre and is forecast to surpass that level for the next 24 hours.

A think tank consisting of 21 environmental and transportation experts will also be established to give policy advice to the city government.

The municipality plans to set up a fine dust institute where research personnel from the city's four public research institutes can work together to systemically study fine dust and devise a mid- and long-term road map to tackle the fine dust problem.

The first meeting of the think tank will be held Monday morning.

South Korea is grappling with high levels of toxic particulate pollution; it ranked bottom in air quality among the 35 member states of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The government is working on a range of measures -- including artificial rain -- to cut emissions produced domestically. It is also consulting with China as a great deal of pollutants are believed to be coming from other countries.

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