As fine dust reached its highest level for March -- rising three to four times higher than the average recorded since 2015 -- over the weekend, the Environment Ministry issued warnings and the government announced measures in response to the situation Sunday.
The Ministry of Environment issued emergency pollution measures and convened an emergency situation room to monitor the air quality. It also asked local governments to take appropriate measures against the increase of fine dust in the atmosphere.
Provincial governments said they would operate street cleaning cars to dampen the streets, shorten the operating hours of public facilities that produce air pollutants, such as garbage incineration plants, and provide information to the public on fine dust alerts.
As for the metropolitan areas of Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, local governments ordered government vehicles as well as civil servants’ vehicles to stay off the road Monday, if the last digit of their license plates is an odd number.
As part of a measure to reduce the number of cars on the roads, cars with license plates that end with an even number are allowed on the roads on even numbered dates, while those ending with an odd number are allowed on odd numbered dates.
Seoul Metopolitan City also announced it is closing all of its 360 public parking spaces.
The National Institute of Environmental Research forecast the bad air quality would continue Monday in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province.
The level of fine dust reached alarming levels Sunday. As of 5 p.m., the level of particle matter 2.5 micrometers in diameter recorded 98 micrograms per cubic meter in Seoul, 104 in Gyeonggi Province, 130 in Incheon, 70 in North Jeolla Province and 45 on Jeju Island.
It is much higher than the daily average standard set by the World Health Organization, which is 25 micrograms per cubic meter.
The spread of particle matter 10 micrometers in diameter also appeared to be serious, with Seoul marking 121 micrograms per cubic meter. Incheon saw 166 micrograms per cubic meter of PM 10, while the level reached 127 in Gyeonggi Province, 85 in Gwangju and 99 in North Jeolla Province. The level of fine dust in Busan was 62 micrograms per cubic meter, 53 in Gangwon Province, and 79 on Jeju Island.
The WHO average standard for PM 10 is 50 micrograms per cubic meter.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)