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City officials share solutions to air pollution

Sept 05,2018
Over 300 policy experts from more than 30 cities gathered in Seoul on Tuesday for a regional conference on air pollution hosted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

“The problem of air pollution cannot be solved by one city but requires the work of communities worldwide,” Yoon Joon-byeong, the deputy mayor of Seoul, said in a speech opening the eighth annual Northeast Asia Forum on Air Quality Improvement at City Hall.

“The event in 2014 brought together 13 cities, and each announced their own plans to improve air quality. In 2016, we successfully set up the East Asia Clean Air Cities program through the conference, and this year, the conference has reached its largest size ever.”

The East Asia Clean Air Cities program managed by the Iclei East Asia Secretariat coordinates air pollution policies among different local governments and experts in the region.

Policy experts at the forum agreed that vehicle emissions were one of the key causes of air pollution and tackling the problem efficiently could produce promising results.

“About 30 percent of the air pollution in Seoul can be attributed to vehicle emissions,” said Min Kwon, director of the air quality policy division in the Seoul city government.

“The Seoul Metropolitan Government has been taking certain measures to reduce vehicle emissions,” including limiting the number of old diesel-fueled cars that can enter the city. Seoul enacted an ordinance last year that placed restrictions on diesel cars that weigh over 2.5 tons and were registered before Dec. 31, 2005.

“We are widening the area to fall under this policy,” Min said. “It includes Incheon and 17 other cities in Gyeonggi this year and will include 11 additional cities in Gyeonggi by 2020.”

Representatives from other cities also shared their policies on reducing vehicle emissions.

“A regulation to restrict the flow of old diesel cars has been in place in Tokyo since 2003,” said Maiko Uehara, director of vehicle emissions control at the Bureau of Environment in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

“The success of such a policy involves a lot of educational work. The city educated about 800 companies in Tokyo before the regulation went into effect in 2003. Such work to raise citizens’ awareness and understanding of official policies should be spearheaded by local governments.”

In Beijing, Xian Liu, an associate consultant at the Beijing Municipal Vehicle Emissions Management Center, said that roadside inspections and fining drivers who were not meeting emissions standards were helpful.

“Major pollutants including PM10 and PM2.5 on the road went down by about 30 percent from 2013 to 2017 in Beijing,” he said.

PM2.5 particles are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair, and can travel through the respiratory tract into the bloodstream.

The World Health Organization (WHO) described fine dust particles as carcinogenic in 2013 and recommends exposure of no more than a daily average of 25 micrograms.

PM10 particles are larger than PM2.5 particles but are also carcinogenic. The WHO recommends exposure of no more than a daily average of 50 micrograms of PM10.

“About seven million people die every year because of air pollution throughout the world, of which two million of them are in Asia,” said Lee Rok-ho, coordinator of health and environment at the WHO’s regional office for the Western Pacific.

“People die of strokes, heart disease and respiratory failure developed through inhalation of particulate matter. We can tackle this problem only if we work together.”

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