SEOUL, Feb. 14 (Korea Bizwire) — A special law on fighting fine dust pollution will take effect in South Korea on Friday, establishing the legal grounds for local governments to impose mandatory restrictions on coal power plants and other heavy emitters of dust particles, the Ministry of Environment said Thursday.
The Special Act on Particulate Matter Reduction and Management, which was enacted and proclaimed in August last year, will also set the grounds for the establishment of a new government-civilian fine dust policy deliberation committee under the Prime Minister’s Office, the ministry said.
The special committee is to hold its first meeting on Friday to discuss comprehensive measures to reduce fine dust pollution, with the attendance of Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, representatives of 17 central government bodies and private experts.
Under the special law, local governments are obliged to take emergency dust reduction measures if the daily average level of ultrafine particles, smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, exceeds 50 micrograms per cubic meter and the figure is forecast to top that level again the following day.
Ultrafine dust particles, or PM 2.5, are known as a class one carcinogen.
If the emergency measures are enforced, heads of local governments have to strictly regulate the operation hours and utilization rates of coal power plants and other large-scale dust emission facilities. Construction sites will also be ordered to reduce the length of their operations.
Violators will be subject to a fine of up to 2 million won (US$1,780).
The environment ministry has singled out 101 large-scale fine dust emission facilities nationwide that can be regulated by the special law, while estimating that there are about 36,000 construction sites to blame for generating fine dust particles.
Driving restrictions will be implemented as stipulated by the ordinances of each local government.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government, for example, has already completed its new legislation, which will restrict the use of grade 5 emission vehicles from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and impose a fine of 100,000 won on violators once emergency anti-fine dust measures are enforced.
The environment ministry has already classified about 2.69 million vehicles, mostly diesel cars, out of 23 million vehicles registered in the nation as grade 5 emission vehicles.
The special law also allows heads of local governments to recommend closures, reduced openings and flexible work hours for schools and kindergartens in case PM 2.5 pollution reaches hazardous levels.
With the implementation of the special law, South Korea aims to reduce its fine dust emissions by 35.8 percent in terms of the 2014 level by 2022.
The National Institute of Environmental Research, a think tank under the Ministry of Environment, has recently said that external sources, mostly from China, accounted for 75 percent of South Korea’s ultrafine dust air pollution in January.
The National Information Resources Service, an affiliate of the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, also said last month that China is largely responsible for fine dust particles over the Korean Peninsula after analyzing fine dust flows over the area of Incheon, west of Seoul, from January 2015 to March 2018.
The Beijing government, on the other hand, has persistently denied any responsibility for fine dust concentrations over South Korea.