South Korea’s first airborne fight against ‘Chinese’ pollution fails

An aircraft from the Korea Meteorological Administration is being readied for a flight to disperse silver iodide, a compound believed to cause rain to fall, in Seoul. (Yonhap/AFP)
Updated 28 January 2019
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South Korea’s first airborne fight against ‘Chinese’ pollution fails

  • The intention was for the rain to douse airborne particles and pollutants known as ‘fine dust’ in South Korea
  • Beijing is also trying to tackle the scourge, which causes widespread public anger

SEOUL: An attempt by South Korea to create artificial rain to tackle air pollution many blame on neighboring China has failed, the government said Monday, as it struggles to address what has become an urgent public concern.
Many South Koreans blamed China when pollution surged for three days earlier this month, and on Friday the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) sent an aircraft to seed clouds with silver iodide in the hope of promoting rain.
The intention was for the rain to douse airborne particles and pollutants known as “fine dust” in South Korea.
However, an initial analysis of the experiment has been disappointing, KMA said in a preliminary report issued Monday.
While a weak, misty rain was detected for several minutes, the agency said, “there was no observation of significant precipitation.”
“Aside from its success or failure, the test was an opportunity to accumulate the necessary technology for a faster commercialization of cloud seeding,” it added.
A full report is expected to be released later next month.
Air quality in South Korea is generally better than in China, which is more frequently affected by choking bouts of filthy air.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week advised his officials to handle the issue as a “natural disaster” as he urged cooperation with Beijing, addressing “great public concerns about fine dust coming from China.”
Beijing is also trying to tackle the scourge, which causes widespread public anger, and a recent study found urban levels of PM2.5 — the tiny airborne particles considered most harmful to health — had been cut by almost a third on average over four years.
But they remain far above World Health Organization norms, and pollution levels in Korea sometimes spike as the prevailing winds blow PM2.5 particulates across the sea between the two countries.
China, which according to the International Energy Agency uses coal to generate around three quarters of its energy, is regarded as the world’s biggest polluter.
Last year, South Korea shut down five aging coal-fired power plants in a bid to improve its air quality.


Sri Lanka's Muslims fearful of backlash after church attacks

Updated 30 min 16 sec ago
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Sri Lanka's Muslims fearful of backlash after church attacks

  • Intelligence officers ignored warnings, says Islamic body
  • There have been reports of attacks on Muslim homes and businesses

COLOMBO: The people of Dharga Town, Sri Lanka, are familiar with violence and loss. In 2014, anti-Muslim riots killed four, injured dozens and left behind a trail of torched homes and businesses.
Now, almost a week after deadly terror attacks devastated the tropical island, the Muslims in Dharga Town are afraid following Daesh’s claim for the bombings.
“At the end of the day, we have to think about what they (the terrorists) are going to get from this. What have they gained? They’ve lost everything,” 38-year-old businessman M. Imthias told Arab News outside Meera Masjid. “We’ve already been through this, and we know the pain, fear, and emotions they (the Catholics) are going through.”
The Daesh claim, issued through the group’s AMAQ news agency, was made after Sri Lanka said two domestic extremist groups with suspected links to foreign militants were thought to be behind the attacks at three churches and four hotels. More than 350 people were killed and around 500 were wounded in the Easter Sunday violence.
Muslims in Dharga Town fear that efforts to rebuild after the 2014 violence are in vain. Anti-Muslim sentiments are emerging and are fueled by remarks from government officials, such as Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena saying the bombings were retaliation for last month’s New Zealand mosque bloodshed.
There have been reports of attacks on Muslim-owned shops, homes, and a mosque in Sri Lanka. There have also been renewed calls to ban the burqa, citing security reasons and Islamist extremism.
But there is also anger toward the National Thawheed Jamath (NTJ), the group initially identified as being responsible for the attacks. Dharga Town residents told Arab News they believed the perpetrators carried out the attacks for personal reasons, not religious ones, as Islam forbids suicide.
The mood in the town is sombre. Shutters are drawn across windows and stores, including supermarkets, are closed. Men gather in small groups along the road, and the area has an increased military presence. People say perpetrators of the assault should face the death penalty.
Around 20 people in Dharga Town belong to the Sri Lanka Tawheed Jamaath (SLTJ), a faction unpopular with the wider Muslim community. Six SLTJ members were arrested on Tuesday afternoon. The mosque — a shack-like structure — did not open for prayers afterwards. Dharga Town residents opposed the SLTJ establishing a community in the area because of their orthodox ways.
“They wanted to build a mosque, but we didn’t allow it. In the end, they built that place with the iron sheets, and conduct their prayers there,” a village elder, who did not wish to be identified, told Arab News. “If they come for prayers, or engage with us in anything, they always try to push their beliefs on us. What they call Islam is completely different from what we practice.”
The NTJ was ostracized by the All Ceylon Jammiyathul Ulema (ACJU), Sri Lanka’s highest body of Islamic scholars. The organization relayed its suspicions about the NTJ to authorities.
“On Jan. 3, we visited intelligence officers and handed over files with all the details of the perpetrators urging them to take necessary action to stop the NTJ. This was completely ignored,” an ACJU scholar said.
The situation in Sri Lanka remains tense, with nightly curfews and reports of bomb threats. There is also confusion after the Defense Ministry said the NTJ was not behind the attacks, leaving the public afraid about the possibility of another splinter group.
But there are calls for calm, too.
“There is no such anger among us,” Sister Manuja, who survived the St. Sebastian Church bombing, told Arab News. The Catholic community would not seek vengeance, she added. “We are very quiet, very simple people.”