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[Air] [Column] All About Fine Dust - (2) The global village suffering from fine dust, seeking solutions with international cooperation

by Eco Generation | 17-09-2019 14:33 Comments 5 Comments recommendations 0 recommendations

The global village suffering from fine dust, seeking solutions with international cooperation



By Science Columnist Hyung-Ja Kim


Air pollutants are transboundary, affecting neighboring countries. Malaysia suffers from fine dust coming from Indonesia, just like Korea does due to fine dust from China. In many parts of the world, environmental disputes are happening with such transboundary pollutants. Therefore, fine dust is not a problem that one or two persons can solve. It requires intergovernmental cooperation.

There are two main approaches to environmental cooperation among countries; one is signing international agreements, and the other is conducting cooperative projects among countries. The Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) in Europe is an exemplary agreement for multilateral approaches.

In Europe, many countries share common borders. This leads to serious issues with transboundary air pollutants. Europe has suffered from intergovernmental conflicts due to fine dust since the early 1970s. The conflicts became worse, and the situation was on the verge of explosion. At this time, Europe found a way to settle conflicts and jointly solve transboundary air pollution. This is the “CLRTAP” signed in 1979 by 33 countries, including both European and other countries. It was the first multilateral environmental agreement to set out detailed countermeasures and cooperation measures. Currently, 51 countries including the European Union and the US are participating.

Furthermore, the Helsinki Protocol on the Reduction of Sulphur Emissions and the Sofia Protocol for reducing nitrogen oxide emissions were set up in 1985 and 1988, respectively. In 2001, the EU set the National Emission Ceiling Directive (NECD) in 2001 to limit pollutant emissions of the member nations. Europe is most active in air pollution control. Thanks to these efforts, Europe has witnessed significantly reduced air pollutants. Its goal is to reduce air pollutants by 40% compared to 2000 by 2030.

The US and Canada have also joined forces. The two countries have dense industrial zones along the border. For this, the two North American countries blamed each other for their transboundary pollutants. Canada insisted that 50% of the acid rain in the country had come from the US industry, while the US said that 15% of acid rain was caused by the Canadian industry.

The two countries finally decided to stop their meaningless argument and form a "research group on long-range air pollution." This was in 1978. Two years later, they signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to suppress the release of acidic substances in their own countries. In 1991, the two governments also signed an agreement to significantly reduce the production of substances causing acid rain. Although no clear results have been achieved, it is expected that there will be good results soon.

India is no exception. Being mentioned as the Asian country with the worst air pollution, even worse than China, by the US New York Times, India is notorious for fine dust. The biggest problem is “haze.” Haze means smoke and fog; it's fine dust flying through smoke. Why does India have serious haze issues?

It is because farmers who do not have land, or slash-and-burn farmers, burn the forest secretly to grow food as the only means of livelihood. A bigger problem than slash-and-burn farmers is plantations, or large-scale estates for farming. In Indonesia, the largest producer of palm oil in the world, companies cultivate palm trees by indiscriminately burning the jungle. The soil in Indonesian jungles is similar to coal, because it is leaf mold made as the result of letting plants sit and decompose over time.

Haze rising up to the sky flies to neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, which has been an international issue for a long time. Thus, ASEAN countries including Singapore, Malaysia, and Myanmar have taken joint measures. Such efforts developed into the “ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution“ in 2002. The focus of the agreement is to establish a Haze Pollution Control Fund to share data among the countries involved, provide relevant technology to Indonesia, and create an early warning system.

However, the agreement has not obtained achievement gains because of the absence of compulsory clauses. Neighboring countries are still protesting strongly every year on the haze issue. Fortunately, the Indonesian government has finally changed the plan. It has decided not to allow development of new farms for the next three years. I will also review permissions for the existing farms. It is a relief that Indonesia is looking for ways to eradicate haze through its own endless efforts, is it not?

Then how do Korea and its neighboring countries China and Japan cooperate for fine dust? In 1995, Korea formally proposed a cooperative project called the "Long-range Transboundary Air Pollutants in Northeast Asia (LTP)." Since 1999, the three countries have held “Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting” every year to discuss air pollution.

The biggest achievement of this meeting was that they agreed to release the “LTP Report,” or scientific analysis of the transboundary movement of fine dust in Northeast Asia since 2013. This report will be released in 2019. Through this, the three countries plan to respond more actively to the reduction of fine dust. It is impossible to make a world without fine dust overnight, but we still have hope with such institutional and thorough countermeasures. Look forward to it!

[Column] All About Fine Dust - (2) The global village suffering from fine dust, seeking solutions with international cooperation



Rachu Khanal

  • Rachu Khanal says :
    Thanks for this great article
    Posted 31-03-2020 07:50

Jasmine Karki

  • Jasmine Karki says :
    Highlighting the concept on fine dust problem and different initiatives to solve it is really appreciable.
    Thank u for making this post available for us to go through it..
    Posted 06-02-2020 15:47

Vazira Ikhtiyorova

  • Vazira Ikhtiyorova says :
    Thank you so much for posting and sharing! Have never read about it:)
    Posted 21-01-2020 04:01

Asmita Gaire

  • Asmita Gaire says :

    Truly for the land deprived farmers, it's a great problem and this they adopt deforestation and other measures for clearing out the forest and deteriorating air and other environment aspects.
    Thank you so much
    Green cheers
    Asmita Gaire
    Posted 21-12-2019 04:49

Yushika Subedi

  • Yushika Subedi says :
    I can't keep myself from reading it again and again. Such a wonderful piece :)
    Posted 15-12-2019 19:07

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