[EDITORIALS]Ecological flim-flam

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[EDITORIALS]Ecological flim-flam

The area along Paldang lake, which supplies water for 20 million people living in the Seoul metropolitan area, has been damaged by reckless land development. Looking at the hillsides cut open to create land for housing estates and rows of hotels, lodges and entertainment facilities along the lake, one can only think that it is vain to expect the lake's clear water to be restored.

Last year, some 4,100 construction permits were granted covering 2.6 million square meters of area in seven administrative districts of the Paldang area. Lodging and restaurant businesses around Paldang lake totaled some 2,800 in 1990, but that number grew to some 10,000 in 10 years.

With such reckless development and increased contamination of the lake, it is useless to spend enormous amounts of money on water quality control.

The reason for the reckless development is builders who collude with the local government, which wants to secure more sources of revenue, to issue permits. Violating a regulation that exempts lakeside areas near villages from water resources protection, they created land for lodging facilities or amusement parks alongside the lake. They also used a tactic of dividing housing estates into small units, easing efforts to get development permits, and then combining them into bigger units. The contamination control system, which mandates the local government to set the total amount of contamination allowed for each business and regulate them, and the land purchase system, which gives the local government the right to buy land in the lakeside area, are not working well. This is the reason why the special supervision over the Paldang lake area fails to accomplish its goal.

Since August 1999, some 250 billion won ($213 million) has been raised annually from people living downstream from Paldang lake for water quality control. But the targeted water quality is far from realized. The government should strengthen supervision on the local government that received water quality control funds but did not take proper action. And the Ministry of Environment, which neglected its duty to supervise the local government, cannot escape responsibility.
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