Representatives of Northeast Asian cities in China, Japan, Mongolia, and Korea gathered in Seoul to discuss the environmental impacts of fine dust (PM-2.5/PM-10) in the region and find ways to reduce air pollutants across the region.
On Thursday, October 17, Seoul Metropolitan Government hosted the 2013 Northeast Asian International Seminar on Air Quality Improvement in the Seoul Museum of History to find ways of making improvements in the air quality in major Northeast Asian cities through international collaboration.
Themed “Environmental Impact of Fine Dust in the Northeast Asian Region and Potential Solutions,” the international seminar was co-hosted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Korean Society for Atmospheric Environment, and East Asia Headquarters of ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives). The annual seminar is intended to boost collaboration among the major cities in the region on their endeavors to improve air quality in their cities.
Apart from regular programs, the seminar also featured diverse product exhibits and publicity events as well as a marketplace for devices designed to improve air quality in the front yard of the seminar venue, the Seoul Museum of History.
Seoul Metropolitan Government continues to do its best to improve its air quality; aside from operating all-season water-based road cleaning vehicles to reduce dust generation during cleaning, it is replacing diesel buses and road-cleaning vehicles with CNG (compressed natural gas) vehicles. The city also gets other diesel vehicles equipped with pollution control devices or has them convert their energy source into LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and implements the car-free weekday system throughout the city.
As a result, the level of fine dust in Seoul fell to 41㎍/㎥ in 2012, the lowest since the start of measurement of fine dust levels in Seoul in 1995 when the level recorded 78㎍/㎥. Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to lower the level further to that of the most advanced cities 25㎍/㎥ by 2023.
In addition to its measures against fine dust, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is taking various actions to reduce the generation of ultra-fine particles (UFPs), which are more hazardous to human health than fine dust. Since October 2013, it has been implementing the PM-2.5 alert system for the first time in Korea so that citizens can take proper precautionary measures in a timely manner.
The fact of the matter is that the air quality in Seoul is heavily dependent on that in other Northeast Asian cities, most of which are densely populated with a large number of factories emitting pollutants into the air. Seoul is directly affected by yellow dust originating in China, too. Therefore, networking among major cities in the region is crucial to improving air quality in Seoul as is the case for any other city in Northeast Asia.
We all know that air pollutants travel farther than many presume, easily across borders more often than not. Sooner or later, efforts of a single city to improve its air quality hit the wall. All cities and countries in Northeast Asia including those emitting relatively more pollutants than others must join hands to fight air pollution together.
During the seminar, Seoul Metropolitan Government proposed enhancing collaboration among municipal governments in the region for more active exchanges of information, personnel, and technologies to improve air quality across the region.
The mayor of Seoul had a special meeting with the vice mayor of Ulan Bator to discuss the fight against air pollution in the capital city of Mongolia where more than half of the country’s population (1.5 million out of 2.8 million) live and the execution of a memorandum of understanding for closer cooperation between Seoul and Ulan Bator on improvements in air quality in the two cities.