Three Nations Launch Air Pollution Study

SEOUL--Pollution from China's booming industrial northeast has long rained down on its richer neighbors, South Korea and Japan, damaging ecosystems and degrading public health. Now scientists from all three countries have embarked upon a cooperative 5-year project to monitor the problem. The information should help direct China's efforts to cut down on pollution.

The research, which began last month, is the first of nine projects among the three countries dealing with transboundary pollution. Others will focus on the effects of water pollution, acid rain, desertification, and CO2 emissions. They are the outgrowth of a series of meetings by the environmental ministers of the three countries, most recently at a February meeting in Beijing.

The new initiative will feature computer modeling of the flow of pollutants as well as the compilation of a list of major sources in all three countries. The project will also contribute to Japan's Acid Deposition Monitoring Network in East Asia (EANET), which will soon begin to collect data after a decade spent setting up 38 monitoring sites in 10 countries, from Indonesia to Mongolia. EANET lags 15 to 20 years behind similar tracking projects in Europe and North America.

Once the data are collected and analyzed, scientists hope they will point the way to new policies. But even if China is found to be the culprit in most of the airborne pollution, it will probably need help from its neighbors in addressing the problem. "Unfortunately, China is not a rich country," says Park Chul Jin of Korea's National Institute of Environmental Research in Seoul. Instead, Park and others foresee Korea and Japan providing money for technical fixes and other steps aimed at curbing the problem.