N.Korea says puts "great effort" into environment

SEOUL (Reuters) - There are no private cars in North Korea and countless factory chimneys have not belched smoke in years, but state media said on Tuesday scientists were inventing new ways to cut air pollution and protect the environment.

The country “has directed a great effort” to research environmental protection, the state news agency KCNA reported.

“Researchers have developed a new material for removing exhaust fumes from automobiles so as to cut the greenhouse gas emissions and reduce air pollution 35-40 percent,” it said, without elaborating.

It also said “units” in the capital, Pyongyang, that caused pollution had been registered, suggesting that dirty industries were under pressure to get clean.

“They are now developing a gas and dust arrester necessary in production processes and new materials needed to secure environmental safety of products,” it said.

The isolated communist country’s state-run media periodically boasts revolutionary innovations in science and technology, despite a moribund economy and chronic food shortages.

Perhaps the most visible in recent years have been related to the relatively well-funded -- and well-fed -- military. North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests since 2006 and several missile launches, upsetting its neighbors.

North Korean scientists also invented a device using “locally available materials” to incinerate hospital waste, KCNA said, and the Environmental Protection Institute of the Ministry of Land and Environmental Conservation had intensified research into pollution-free vegetable production.

Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Paul Tait