South Korean cities like Seoul are regularly affected by fine dust pollution in select seasons of the year. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
Nov. 1 (UPI) -- South Korea may have reduced some areas of its government budget being allocated toward fighting fine-dust pollution, a recurring problem in the spring, fall and winter.
The overall budget toward fighting fine dust is increasing, but is being mainly allocated to protect air quality in indoor areas, such as buildings.
According to Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Kim Jung-hoon and Seoul's National Assembly Budget office on Friday, the budgets were "significantly cut" for major areas of environmental policy, Seoul Economic Daily reported.
While Seoul is increasing by 3.2 percent of the budget allocated toward improving air quality from $805.6 million to $831.5 million for next year, excluding increases for improving pollution control facilities at businesses, all other areas are facing a budget reduction, according to the report.
While the budget is being doubled for building pollution control facilities, other areas are facing an overall 9.6 percent budget cut.
Allowances for building Low Emission Zones, which restrict the operation of more polluting older vehicles, have been cut by 71 percent, and is down to about $3.2 million.
Projects designed to reduce road dust are also taking a hit, with allowances being reduced by 55 percent, to $18.5 million.
Other operations, including 3D fine dust emission tracking, networks for measuring air pollution and recycling of old automobiles, are also receiving less funds in the next fiscal year, according to the report.
Fine dust pollution resulting from local power plants and pollutants floating from neighboring China, has been described as a disaster in Seoul.
Dangerous PM 2.5 particles can enter the lungs and pose major health risks. More South Koreans are required to don facemasks before braving the outdoors, as the government struggles to contain the crisis.
South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon's office said Friday the government remains concerned about pollution.
Lee's office said in an official statement the plan is to reduce ultrafine dust concentration from the current 23 micrograms per square meter to 16 micrograms.
The prime minister also said Seoul is in ongoing talks with the Chinese government for a joint response to the pollution.